CATALAN’S deposed leader has refused to concede he had been sacked as Spain teeters on the brink of its worst political crisis in four decades.
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 for understanding and no violence between either side, saying: “The best way to defend what we have achieved to date is democratic opposition to the application of article 155.”
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.
Spanish protesters wave flags as riot police look on in Barcelona[/caption]
A Catalan riot police stands as anti-independence supporters march against the landmark vote[/caption]
A pro unity demonstrator displays a Spanish flag to Catalan Regional Police officers during a protest[/caption]
A Catalan radio station was allegedly attacked by a small group of demonstrators with Spanish flags[/caption]
Catalan flags are held up as fireworks go off in Sant Jaume Square in front of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona[/caption]
Catalan flags were paraded through the streets of Barcelona after the rebel region declared independence from Spain[/caption]
Proud Catalans wave flags and celebrate in Barcelona[/caption]
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.
A young woman celebrates outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona[/caption]
A Catalan supporter displays a portrait of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, two key members of the independence movement[/caption]
A Barcelona fan is pictured among the crowds celebrating in the Catalan capital[/caption]
Puigdemont remained defiant, tweeting: ‘Catalonia is and will be a land of freedom’[/caption]
Young independence supporters appear to be overcome with emotion on the streets of Barcelona[/caption]
Catalan independence supporters continued to celebrate late into the evening[/caption]
A man wearing a Barcelona strip celebrates with hundreds more despite the controversy surrounding the vote[/caption]
It is feared the vote could lead to the collapse of Spain[/caption]
A woman drinks from a bottle of wine in celebration of the controversial vote[/caption]
Separatist lawmakers hold their ceremonial staves into the air after a vote on independence in the Catalan parliament in Barcelona[/caption]
People celebrate after the Catalan regional parliament passes the vote of independence from Spain[/caption]
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.
People wave Catalan separatist flags during celebrations in Sant Jaume square in Barcelona[/caption]
People were seen celebrating in Barcelona after the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain[/caption]
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is seen handing in his ballot paper on Friday[/caption]
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.
Trapero became a hero to the secessionists after his force took a much softer stance than national police in enforcing a government ban on an independence referendum on October 1.
Trapero’s dismissal was signed off by Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido. Spain’s High Court last week banned Trapero from leaving Spain and seized his passport as part of an investigation for alleged sedition, although it did not order his arrest.
He had become the image of Catalonia worldwide in the wake of the terror attacks in Barcelona, keeping the globe informed of the horrors that saw scores of tourists mowed down in Barcelona and the Mediterranean resort of nearby Cambrils last August.
Police smashed the jihadist cell, shooting several dead to save the lives of more innocent holidaymakers and locals, and successfully tracked down and captured other members of the gang of Islamic fanatics.
Spain now faces being ripped apart following the controversial vote[/caption]
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy intends to take direct control of Catalonia[/caption]
The latest move is sure to spark fears of a civil war[/caption]
Emotional independence supporters were seen in tears during the processions[/caption]
There were tears of joy as the results of the vote were announced[/caption]
In a memo released this morning, Mossos and national police officers told Reuters: “Given that there is it is likely to be an increase in gatherings and rallies of citizens in all the territory and that there are people of different thoughts, we must remember that it is our responsibility to guarantee the security of all and help these to take place without incident.”
Opponents of independence for Catalonia have taken to the streets of Madrid this morning, with thousands waving Spanish flags in the emotional rally.
Despite the controversy, Catalan’s Puigdemont remained defiant, tweeting: “Catalonia is and will be a land of freedom. “At the service of people. In the difficult moments and at the moments of celebration. Now more than ever.”
Violence last night broke out in Barcelona in response, with at least two injured as demonstration for and against independence raged for hours.
A Catalan radio station was attacked and had its windows cracked by angry unionists last night.
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.
Independence supporters waved banners as they took to the streets[/caption]
Tears filled the eyes of some independence supporters in emotional scenes[/caption]
The continued upheaval follows a partial referendum held in the eastern region of the country earlier this month that saw violence break out as police dragged voters out of polling stations.
The unofficial referendum on October 1 saw nearly half of Catalan citizens turn out and vote overwhelmingly in support of independence.
The Spanish government has received unwavering support from his European allies and the United States.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain “will not recognise” Catalonia as an independent country branding the vote “illegal.”
As the situation escalated sharply, European Council President Donald Tusk appealed for calm.
“For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force,” he tweeted.
Independence supporters celebrate in the streets on a landmark day[/caption]
The crowds clapped and shouted ‘independence’ in Catalan before singing the regional hymn, many raising their fists[/caption]
Just minutes after the results were announced, the Spanish Senate granted Madrid powers to impose direct rule on Catalonia[/caption]
Tens of thousands celebrated in the streets of Barcelona after the vote was announced[/caption]
Independence supporters massed near the Catalan parliament on Friday[/caption]
Rajoy has called his Cabinet for a crisis meeting to roll out the first measures to take back control[/caption]
But Scotland offered a rare voice of support to Catalonia, with Scottish external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop saying: “While Spain has the right to oppose independence, the people of Catalonia must have the ability to determine their own future.”
She added that the Declaration of Independence had come only after repeated calls for dialogue were refused, saying: “Now, more than ever, the priority of all those who consider themselves friends and allies of Spain should be to encourage a process of dialogue to find a way forward that respects democracy and the rule of law. The imposition of direct rule cannot be the solution and should be of concern to democrats everywhere.”
Earlier a top EU official said resolving the crisis in Catalonia was crucial to the whole of Europe.
The vote comes days after Spain’s government announced it will take over running Catalonia — but denied it was staging a coup.
Separatist lawmakers hold their ceremonial staves into the air after a vote on independence in the Catalan parliament[/caption]
The motion was passed in the 135-strong assembly with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two blank ballots[/caption]
The disputed vote is now likely to be declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court[/caption]
Spanish crowds last night waved Catalan separatist flags as they marched against the decision, and the imprisonment of civil society leaders Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, both leading figures in the October 1 referendum.
Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont gave a speech after joining the afternoon protest, saying in a mix of Catalan, Spanish and English: “[The Spanish government has waged] the worst attack on institutions and Catalan people since the decrees of military dictator Francisco Franco abolishing the Catalan government.
“I ask the parliament to meet in a plenary session during which we, the representatives of the citizens’ sovereignty, will be able to decide over this attempt to liquidate our government and our democracy and act in consequence.”
Local police have said 450,000 have joined in the demonstration[/caption]
Spain announced that it will move to dismiss Catalonia’s separatist government and call fresh elections which has angered supporters of independence[/caption]
Pro-independence demonstrators joined the protest in the Spanish city[/caption]
People in the crowd held up handcuffs labelled with ‘Spanish democracy?’[/caption]
Police said that by 5.30pm, 450,000 people had joined the demonstration before Puigdemont said the region would not accept Madrid’s plans.
President Rajoy needs the permission of Spain’s parliament to exercise the legal measures which he wants to use to curb the region’s power, dissolve the government, and call a national election within six months.
Mr Rajoy had said if he was successful in declaring independence, his actions would restore the law, make sure regional institutions were neutral, and guarantee public services and economic activity as well as preserve the civil rights of all citizens.
Dozens of people protested the Spanish government announcement[/caption]
They held up signs with demands as they campaigned for independence for the region[/caption]
The region’s president was pictured at the protest[/caption]
Thousands came out in support of the region’s aim of getting independence[/caption]
Flags were waved and banners displayed as thousands came out to march today[/caption]
A young pro-independence demonstrator holding a flag[/caption]
Protesters held up signs and flags as they marched against the announcement made by the Spanish Prime Minister[/caption]
Yesterday Spain’s national security department said an undisclosed number of government websites had been hit in recent weeks with slogans supporting independence for the region.
In a YouTube video posted by an account linked to Anonymous, the group announced actions that would be rolled out on Saturday as part of ‘Operation Free Catalonia’.
No internal information was compromised.
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