Scuffles as Catalonia Erupts in Protests over Nov. 9 Referendum Ban

Police clashed with thousands of Catalan demonstrators as they hit the streets of Barcelona and Madrid on Tuesday, outraged at the Spanish Constitutional Court’s decision to suspend Catalonia’s November vote for independence.

The independence referendum planned by Catalonia’s president for this November was unanimously suspended by 12 judges of the Spanish Constitutional Court on Monday.

Angered by the decision, protesters took to the streets of Barcelona and several other cities, promising they are ready to begin “the most powerful political campaign in European history” in case the referendum is not held, according to RIA Novosti citing protest organizers.

Despite rainy weather, crowds of demonstrators with colorful umbrellas and slogans – some dressed in the colors of the regional flag and holding banners demanding the right to vote for independence – flooded Barcelona’s center. “We will vote” and “We want a vote!” the people chanted.

Groups of demonstrators also took directly to Spanish government building in Barcelona and to the Spanish parliament in Madrid with cardboard cut-outs of ballot boxes, symbolizing the defiant drive of Catalonia’s independence supporters to hold the November 9 referendum. In Barcelona, the protesters were dispersed by the police for blocking the pavement, with brief clashes ensuing, according to ITAR-TASS.

Despite Madrid’s position that there is no way the government will allow the country to be split, Catalans remain adamant that they should be given a chance to vote. In response to the Monday decision, the speaker of the regional parliament, Nuria de Gispert, called for the Constitutional Court to “immediately lift” the suspension of the referendum. Catalan separatist politicians also did not give up hope of a referendum.

“Not rain nor snow nor any court will stop us,” AFP quoted the leader of the Catalan National Assembly, Carme Forcadell, as saying at a Barcelona protest. “On November 9 we will vote and we will win.” The Catalan government’s spokesman Francesc Homs indicated that “nothing has ended and the government is determined to move forward. We can’t give the signal that we have given up.” On Saturday the president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, has signed a decree calling an independence referendum for November.

His decision came after the regional parliament in Catalonia voted by 106 to 28 in favor of granting the president the power to hold the referendum.

Speaking in a televised address after an emergency cabinet meeting Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he regretted Mas’ decision to call for separation from Spain.

“Nobody and nothing will be allowed to break up Spain,” the prime minister said.

To resolve the issue, the Conservative Spanish central government filed two appeals – one against the law by the Catalonian parliament allowing for the region’s vote for independence and the second one against the decree signed by the Catalonian president calling for independence.

Now that the suspension of the independence referendum has been approved, the court has five months in which to examine the matter.

Catalonia is considered one of Spain’s richest industrialized regions. With the population of 7.5 million people – about 16 percent of Spaniards – the region has its own language, culture and is proud of its independent-minded citizens.

Back in 2006, the region formally gained nation status. However, the claim was subsequently overruled by the Constitutional Court.

Reprinted with permission from Russia Today.