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1ST LEAD Referendum-blocking tactics prompt second night of Barcelona protests By Ana Lazaro Verde and Alvise Armellini, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Madrid (dpa) - Thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona for a second night on Thursday to protest the Spanish government attempts to halt Catalonia‘s independence referendum.

Gathered before Barcelona‘s Supreme Court building, they demonstrated against controversial police raids on several Catalan regional government buildings and called for the release of all 14 politicians and officials who were arrested the day before.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has vowed to carry on with the referendum planned October 1, saying "we will not take a step back" and accusing Madrid of a "totalitarian and anti-democratic attitude."

On Thursday, the homepage for the referendum was updated with information for eligible voters.

In order to block the referendum, the Spanish government had ordered on Wednesday nearly 40 police raids, leading to the politicians‘ arrests and the confiscation of some 10 million ballot papers.

The raids sparked pro-independence protests, with about 40,000 demonstrating in central Barcelona on Wednesday. Hundreds continued their protest overnight. While there have so far been no notable clashes with police, the atmosphere remains tense.

The protests were not limited to Barcelona, with 10,000 people coming out in support of the referendum overnight to Thursday in Lleida, about 150 kilometres west of the city, according to media reports.

Despite the protests, the Spanish government is confident that Catalonia‘s independence referendum will not take place, with Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo, also education minister, underlining his conviction to Onda Cero radio on Thursday.

The government is ready to talk about more devolution, "but within the law and the constitution," whereas Catalan leaders "have only one obsession, the referendum, which is not possible," he said.

The EU Commission refused to comment on the increasingly heated situation in Barcelona. "We respect Spain‘s constitutional rule, the same way we respect the constitutions of all our member states," a spokesman for the Brussels agency said.

On Wednesday, FC Barcelona football club also took a stand against police raids, angering Mendez de Vigo.

"Barca is not just a Catalan club. I‘m sure that many were disgusted by its statement yesterday," he said.


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