Spain remains on a knife-edge as tensions between both sides continue to grow, with brawls already having broken out in Barcelona last night
As the Spanish government held its first meeting to discuss their new roles since imposing direct rule over Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont instead promised to continue to build a “free country”, and called for “democratic opposition” to Madrid.
In the pre-recorded, televised message, Puigdemont urged people to continue pushing for independence, saying: “We do not deviate: we continue persevering in the only attitude that can make us winners.
“Without violence, without insults, in an inclusive way, respecting people and symbols, opinions, and also respecting the protests of the Catalans who do not agree with what has decided the parliamentary majority.”
As pro-unity protesters crowds took to the streets on Saturday, screaming “prison for Puigdemont”, the leader said “patience, perseverance and perspective” was needed.
It comes after fears that the country could further descend into violence have surfaced after the Prime Minister ordered fresh elections and fired Catalonia’s hero police chief who led its response to the Barcelona ISIS terror attack.
Catalonia officials have also been stripped of their powers across civil service, finances and public media, with all eyes on whether independence supporters will carry out their threat of peaceful resistance to Madrid’s takeover.
Fights erupted on the streets of Barcelona last night as both sides of the argument took to the streets and further protests were held in Madrid today amid fears local police could resist the national force.
Further violence could unfold ahead of the December 21 elections, with threats that politicians previously responsible for the independence vote could face treason charges and time behind bars.
As Spanish State Secretaries today met to organise taking over the duties of Catalan regional ministries, it had been reported arrests over the independence vote could be made as early as Monday.
But sacked Catalonia police chiefs have called for the “security of all” to be the main priority as focus turns to whether Catalonia’s separatist executive will willingly step down.
Last night, demonstrators in Barcelona broke out in ecstatic shouts of: “Independence!” as the Catalan was declared independent, and separatist MPs cheered, clapped and embraced before breaking out in the Catalan anthem.
Spain’s leader instead seized control of the rebel region after the controversial independence motion was passed in the 135-strong assembly by 60 votes.
Rajoy dissolved the regional parliament and stripped Catalonia’s most senior police officials of their powers, with it this morning announced Catalonia’s regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero had been sacked at 4am.
Calling on the fresh elections to “restore normality”, Prime Minister Rajoy last night announced: “We have decided to sack the Catalan government. Central government will assume the powers of the Catalan administration.”
He added: “It’s not about suspending or meddling in the self-government (of Catalonia), but to return it to normality and legality as soon as possible.”
His deputy Soraya Saenz de Santamaria in charge of the Catalan government until the local elections can be held.
The Spanish Senate granted the government special constitutional powers to stop the wealthy region’s move toward independence.
In special measures published overnight in an official gazette, Catalan’s leader Carles Puigdemont and 12 members of the Catalan Cabinet will no longer be paid and could be charged with usurping others’ functions if they refuse to obey the Spanish government’s ruling.
Other measures adopted by the government this morning include the dismissal of Josep Lluis Trapero, the head of the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalan’s regional police force, as well as Catalan government representatives in Madrid and Brussels.
Experts have warned of further violence, with Federico Santi, Europe analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, saying there could be “more serious clashes between national police and pro-independence activists,” echoing widely-held fears.
The Foreign Office said: “Protests may occur with little or no warning and can escalate and turn confrontational.”
“You should exercise caution if you’re in the vicinity.”