Catalonia on streets after Spain’s arrests

Catalonia on streets after Spain’s arrests

Catalonia on streets after Spain’s arrests Thousands gathered on Sept. 21 at the gates of Catalonia's regional judicial body in Barcelona to demand the release of a dozen officials arrested in connection with a vote on independence that Spanish authorities are challenging as illegal.

The demonstrators answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against the police surprise crackdown one day earlier.

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 Vice President Oriol Junqueras acknowledged that the crackdown had disrupted the referendum plans. 

"It's evident that we won't be able to vote like we have done in the past," Junqueras told broadcaster TV3.
Even so, he remained confident there will be a large turnout of Catalans on Oct. 1 - whatever form the vote takes. Pro-independence leaders have insisted the ballot will go ahead despite the obstacles.

With tension mounting 10 days before the planned vote, Spanish authorities contracted three ships usually used as ferries and brought them to northeastern Spain to provide accommodation for the additional security forces being deployed in the region. Authorities have not disclosed how many officers will be on duty.

The Catalan National Assembly, a driving force behind the secession movement, urged people to gather at noon Sept. 21 outside the region's justice tribunal and bring tents if needed.

By midday, the protesting crowds filled a square the size of two soccer fields. Many wrapped themselves in the "estelada" flag. 

"We will be here, peacefully but present, until all of the arrested walk out free," Assembly president Jordi Sanchez said.

‘Greater harm’

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose opposition to the referendum has the support of the main opposition Socialist party, has warned Catalan leaders of "greater harm" if they don't call off the referendum bid.

Spain's Constitutional Court said Sept. 21 it will begin fining 22 electoral board members appointed to oversee Catalonia's planned independence referendum between $7,200 and $14,400 a day as long as they fail to comply with a court order suspending the ballot. The fines will begin on Sept. 23.

Spanish Embassy ‘advises’ Turkish media on Catalan protest reports 

The press counsellor of the Spanish Embassy in Turkey, Eduardo Aguirre de Carcer, has sent a letter to Turkish media outlets regarding news on Catalonia’s recent decision to hold an independence referendum, bemoaning “information poisoning.” 

“[Some articles] don’t reflect the real views of the Spanish people and what is really happening in the country,” the letter sent on Sept. 22 read. 

“We think this is the result of a lack of confirmed information and extreme ‘information poisoning,’” it added. 

A collection of articles from the Spanish media were sent alongside the letter in order to “help differentiate between propaganda, which benefits Catalan authorities who direct this shameful attack on our democracy, and truth.”