Spain to send extra police to try to halt Catalan referendum


Thousands gathered on September 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.

A Catalan regional judge has ordered the release with restrictions of six people arrested as part of a crackdown by Spanish authorities on preparations for an October 1 independence referendum for Catalonia, which Spain says is illegal.

The political uncertainty in Catalonia has reportedly forced the country's government to postpone its push in parliament to approve the 2018 budget as Spain's Basque nationalist party (PNV) has, for the time being at least, apparently threatened to withdraw its support.

"They will be mandated to monitor public spaces and to maintain order, and they will act in the case of the illegal referendum", reads the statement of the interior Ministry. They occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university officials. Catalan authorities vowed to hold the referendum despite the court's ruling.

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Student union representatives are calling for protesters to remain over the weekend to support for the vote.

The mood in Catalonia is growing increasingly nasty with just over a week to go before the banned ballot on October 1. Police said up to 40,000 people gathered outside the devolved government's economy ministry in the city, which was searched.

The protest Friday in the northeastern Catalan town of Hospitalet de Llobregat is an extension of another started Thursday outside the Catalan judiciary headquarters in nearby Barcelona that attracted thousands. The demonstrators answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against the police surprise crackdown one day earlier.

Spain's central government says the planned referendum violates Spain's constitution, and the Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended while it studies its legality.