North-eastern Spain is facing protests outside Catalonia’s judicial body in Barcelona after Spanish officials jailed 12 politicians for coordinating a banned referendum that would lead the region to its separation from the country. The pro-independence civic groups called for people to stay on the streets.
Spanish authorities said that anybody challenging the laws of Spain would face consequences. They consider that voting for Catalonia’s separation would be completely illegal because it would act against the Spanish constitution.
The Madrid government is facing one of Spain’s worst political crisis since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. According to Madrid’s constitutional court, those who carry on the process for Catalonia’s referendum will pay the state up to €12,000 ($14,300) each day until they stop.
Police already seized about 10 million voting slips from a warehouse. The destruction of the referendum material, and the imprisonment of the Catalan politicians, “altered the state of play” of the October 1 voting – according to Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras. He told broadcaster TV3 that “It’s evident that we won’t be able to vote like we have done in the past.” However, “everything is being done” to allow the vote to proceed.”
“Our motto is that we are not afraid,” said Malena Palau, a 21-year-old student who assisted Thursday’s demonstration, according to U.S. News & World Report. “We want to vote because we have the right to decide, regardless of what we vote.”
Hundreds of people protesting in Barcelona
The Catalan National Assembly called for people to protest on Thursday at the gates of the justice tribunal in Barcelona. Pro-independence leaders have said that no matter the consequences, they will keep protesting until they see Catalonia completely separated from Spain.
The rally gathered an agglomeration of Catalans as big as two soccer fields, full of people chanting “We will vote!” and “Hello democracy.” Many of them brought their “estelada” flag and wrapped themselves as a representation of the love they feel for their region. According to the police, more than 40,000 people marched to support the Catalonia government’s economy ministry, which had been searched on Wednesday.
Dozens of people even stayed past midnight, and some of them turned violent, according to police officials. The police reported that objects were thrown at them. The protests could not be the terminated, though.
Earlier this week, following the arrest of the politicians, left-wing trade union CGT called for strikes the day after it was supposed to hold the referendum – on October 1.
“Don’t go ahead, you don’t have any legitimacy to do it. Go back to the law and democracy. This referendum is a chimera,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday in a televised speech.
The relations between Madrid and Catalonia governments, of course, turned more hostile, says BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe in Barcelona.
On Wednesday night, Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont tweeted “We will not accept a return to the darkest times. The Catalan government stands by freedom and democracy” – referring to the Franco regime.