Spain launches police crackdown to stop Catalan independence referendum
A demonstrator holds up a banner reading “We vote to be free” as she tries with others to stop the car carrying Xavier Puig, a senior official of the Catalan government, after he was arrested by Guardia Civil officers in Barcelona, Sept. 20. | Emilio Morenatti / AP

Protesters gathered in their thousands yesterday outside Catalonia’s Economy Ministry in Barcelona to demand the release of officials arrested for planning an independence vote deemed illegal by Madrid.

The 40,000 demonstrators answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against Wednesday’s surprise police crackdown.

Acting on a judge’s orders, police seized 10 million ballot papers and arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials, suspected of coordinating the referendum.

The arrests were the first involving Catalan officials since the campaign to hold an independence vote began in earnest in 2011.

Catalan National Assembly president Jordi Sanchez told the cheering crowds: “We will be here, peacefully but present, until all of the arrested walk out free.”

Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras acknowledged that the crackdown had disrupted the referendum plans, saying, “It’s evident that we won’t be able to vote as we have done in the past.”

Even so, he remained confident there will be a large turnout of Catalans on October 1—whatever form the vote takes.

Establishment political forces urged Catalan leaders to drop the referendum bid yesterday, echoing conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s warning that “greater harm” lies ahead.

The main opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party—neoliberal despite its name—and the business-friendly Ciudadanos party demanded a u-turn from Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos offered to open negotiations on better funding for Catalonia, suggesting that, “once independence plans are dropped, we can talk.”

This article originally appeared in Morning Star.

 


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Morning Star
Morning Star

The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.

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