Spain sending extra police to Catalonia over independence referendum

Monday, 25 Sep, 2017

"We denounce the intervention of the state to control the police forces of Catalonia".

Prosecutors have ordered the 17,000-strong Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police force, to report directly to the Interior Ministry in Madrid as opposed to Catalan authorities in Barcelona.

Spain has announced all local police across Catalonia are to be placed under the control of the Spanish Interior Ministry.

A man drives his taxi decorated with an estela flag and publicity supporting the October 1 vote in Barcelona, Spain Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

Catalan authorities despite the arrest of a dozen regional government officials and 10 million ballot papers being seized, the vote will take place.

It was only about three years ago that Catalonia had its last independence referendum where 80% of voters opted to separate from Spain, though bearing in mind that this only represented an estimated 37-41% of the population.

The Mossos, who are normally controlled by the Catalan government, have been accused by Madrid of not sufficiently cracking down on preparations for the independence vote, which Spain's Constitutional Court has ruled illegal.

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The Catalan government issued a statement saying it did not "accept the interior ministry taking command of the Mossos d'Esquadra" and the region's interior minister Joaquim Forn, whose department manages the Mossos said they were looking into taking legal action against "this interference from the state".

Police, acting under court orders, have stepped up raids on printers, newspaper offices and private delivery companies in recent days in a search for campaign literature, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.

The Catalan government said Saturday it would resist Madrid's measures. The ministry says the move is created to enhance coordination.

Organizers also denounced what they describe as the Canadian government's timid response to the intensifying Spanish crackdown ahead of a planned October 1 referendum.

Several hundred students have spent the night inside a Barcelona university to protest the government's efforts to stop a referendum over Catalonia's secession from Spain, local media reported today.

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".

The protesters have said on social media that pro- independence politicians are expected to give talks at Barcelona University.