Published: Thu, September 21, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Spanish police raid Catalan government buildings over fears of independence vote

Spanish police raid Catalan government buildings over fears of independence vote

After a series of rulings from the Constitutional Court decreed the vote illegal, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is imposing financial curbs on the regional administration and has promised tougher sanctions still if officials refuse to back down.

"There's no democratic state in the world that would accept what these people are planning", he said. They have also threatened to arrest mayors who facilitate the vote and seized 45,000 information documents that were to be handed to polling station staff.

Authorities raid regional government ministries and arrest aide to Catalan vice president. More than 70% of Catalans want a legal referendum on independence to settle the issue.

The government spokesperson of Catalonia, Jordi Turull, urged calmness in the face of what he called the "police and siege state", and said that the referendum will go on, La Vanguardia reported.

Spain's Constitutional Court has ordered the October 1 referendum suspended and the central government is waging myriad legal battles to halt it, claiming it is illegal.

For his part, the Spanish foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, accused the pro-independence side of "Nazi" tactics in a TV interview in the U.S. the night before.

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How are Catalan leaders responding?

The protest in Madrid's Sol Square mirrored those in Barcelona and other Catalan cities that brought thousands to the streets on Wednesday following police raids and the first arrests so far of regional officials. "He did not have to wait long", the BBC reports. Catalan police eventually intervened to let the official through. "We will not allow it".

Tensions also reached the parliament in Madrid on Wednesday, where Gabriel Rufian, a lawmaker for the pro-separatist Catalan Republican Left (ERC), told Rajoy to take his "dirty hands off Catalan institutions" before storming out of the assembly with fellow lawmakers.

On June 9, the president of the autonomous region, Carles Puigdemont, said that Catalonia would hold a unilateral referendum on independence on October 1, 2017, prompting criticism and objections from Madrid.

However, one survey commissioned by the Catalan government in July suggested that 41% of voters backed independence while 49% were opposed. Barcelona FC on Wednesday released a statement supporting people, entities and institutions fighting for democracy and freedom of speech.

League president Javier Tebas said that a deal to keep Barcelona and other Catalan clubs in the league would not be as simple as most people may think. On Sept. 19, for example, the mayors of three Catalan municipalities who pledged to cooperate with referendum organizing efforts were summoned to testify before the prosecutor's office in Barcelona.

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