Thousands More Spanish Police Arrive for Catalonia Crackdown

HeraldScotland

In another bid by Madrid to block a planned October 1 independence referendum, Catalonia's three police forces were put under coordinated command Saturday, a move immediately rejected by local officials of the wealthy northeastern region.

The central government in Madrid has blocked the vote and chartered three ferries in the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona to house additional police dispatched to the region.

An Interior Ministry statement said the extra police would provide backing for the Catalan regional police, who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

The ministry did not say how many extra federal police are being sent but local media put the figure at 3,000 to 4,000.

They would join the roughly 5,000 state police normally stationed in Catalonia and around 17,000 Mossos officers.

The accusations follow mass protests in Barcelona on Wednesday, when an estimated 2,000 people allegedly vandalized Spanish National Police, CNP, patrol cars and temporarily blocked officers from leaving a government building.

They also arrested 14 organizers of the vote, including several top Catalan government officials.


"We denounce the attempt by the state to intervene in the police forces of Catalonia", Joaquim Forn, the head of Catalonia's interior department and the civilian head of the Catalan police, said Saturday, reading a statement on regional television. The Spanish government called the bill illegal and challenged it in the Constitutional Court.

Hundreds of pro-independence supporters had protested outside the courthouse in the town of Hospitalet de Llobregat to demand the officials' release.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain's 1.1 trillion-euro (£970 billion) economy and enjoys wide self-government. The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters.

Prosecutors are singling out these leaders, whose groups actively support Catalonia's right to an independence vote on October 1.

"You", said Rajoy, speaking to the Catalan separatist government "are making a mistake and you are going to force us to go where we don't want to go", he said last week in a televised speech at a ruling Popular Party meeting.

"Madrid should allow some constitutional change; so, the Catalans could have the right to vote and Madrid should try to convince the Catalans to stay in Spain".

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