Spain has “crossed a red line,” Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said after gendarmerie raided offices of his regional government in Barcelona and arrested a dozen civil servants.
“On October 1, we are called to defend democracy from a repressive and intimidating regime,” Puigdemont told Catalans in a televised speech.
He argued that the actions of the Spanish state, which considers a planned independence vote illegal, are “totalitarian” and amount to the suspension of Catalan home rule.
Officers of the Guardia Civil raided 22 buildings on Wednesday morning, including the medieval Palau de la Generalitat in central Barcelona and the Catalan Finance Ministry.
Top civil servants, including the leading finance official, Josep María Jové, were arrested.
Spain earlier suspended Catalonia’s fiscal autonomy to prevent the region from spending money on a referendum.
Prosecutors have filed charges of disobedience against Catalan mayors who would allow the referendum to be held on public grounds. The Civil Guards have confiscated ballot papers and voting cards in several cities.
“Whatever is necessary”
Spain’s Constitutional Court has ordered the referendum’s suspension, but Catalan leaders are determined to press ahead.
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to do “whatever is necessary” to stop the independence vote and defended his actions in parliament on Wednesday. “This was done on the decision of a judge to ensure compliance with the law,” he said.
Catalan deputies walked out in protest.
Uniting people against him
Rajoy’s heavy-handedness is uniting people against him.
Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, has called the raids a “democratic scandal”. She was previously undecided if she would allow city officials to help organize the referendum. Now she is on the separatists’ side.
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s third largest party, Podemos, has called the situation “shameful”. He urged Rajoy last week to negotiate with the Catalans.
Polls suggest only a minority of Catalans want to secede, but most do want to vote.