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People demonstrate outside the Catalan Vice-President and Economy office as police officers holds a searching operation inside on September 20, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Spanish Civil Guard police have stormed several Catalan government ministries in an attempt to stop the region's independence referendum on October 1, which has been deemed illegal by the Spanish government in Madrid. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Urgent: Forced Takeover of Catalan Government Institutions by Spanish Police

The people of Spain's Catalan region are in the streets as the Spanish government suspends autonomy and seizes ballots ahead of upcoming referendum

Thomas S. Harrington

I just got of the phone with Josep Maria Sole Sabaté, my friend and a leading Catalan historian and public intellectual. He was nothing short of breathless as he described the helicopters flying overhead stated flatly that he was in the the midst of a coup being carried out by the Spanish State. 

He wanted to get in touch with me and others "out there" because he was not sure how much longer free communication would be available to him and other out in the street protesting against the Spanish central government's arrest of members of the Catalan Autonomous government. 

As of this writing on Wednesday, at least six agencies of the Catalan Government have been the object of forced police searches and thirteen, mostly mid-level members of the Catalan government, have been arrested.  

The homes of two the leading architects of the incipient Catalan state, Carles Viver Pi i Sunyer and ex Spanish judge Santi Vidal, have been searched by police.  The headquarters of the far-left CUP, part of the pro-vote coalition in the Catalan Parliament, has been surrounded by police. 

Leader of the Catalan National Congress Jordi Sanchez as well as Jordi Cuixart, head of a major Catalan cultural organization called Omnium, have both called on Catalans to come into the streets. According to reports, people have done so and created a massive presence. 

The mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, who has been highly ambivalent regarding the referendum that is scheduled too take place on October 1st, has now come out firmly for the referendum and against the crackdown taking place. Albano Dante Fachin, head of the Podemos branch in Catalonia, which  has been similarly ambivalent, is now off the fence and fully supporting the right to decree and denouncing the  aggression coming from the Spanish government in Madrid.

The Catalan President Puigdement has called an extraordinary meeting of his government. The president of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell has gone there to join him. At this moment, Puigdemont is currently in the Generalitat Palace, home of the Catalan government meeting with his ministers. Crowds are outside in the Saint James square in the very heart of the city of Barcelona where both the Gneralitat and City Hall are located. People are lying down in the Via Laietana, a short walk away,  one of the city’s  main thoroughfares, in order to impede the Civil Guard's ability to march upon government buildings. 

The Ex-president of Catalonia, Artur Mas has said flatly that the vote will go on.  Joan Tarda, one of the representatives of the Catalan Left Republican Party in the Parliament in Madrid, has made a public appeal for calm. 

The Catalanist have received messages and protest of support from the Basque Country, where people have also taken to the streets, and Madrid itself, where a pro-democracy demonstration is currently taking place.

The Barcelona Football Club has come out in favor of those seeking to vote on October 1st.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Thomas S. Harrington

Thomas S. Harrington

Thomas S. Harrington is professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of Public Intellectuals and Nation Building in the Iberian Peninsula, 1900–1925: The Alchemy of Identity (Bucknell University Press, 2014).

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