Catalan leader vows to fight Madrid direct rule despite being fired

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CATALAN’S deposed leader has seemingly refused to concede he had been sacked as he called for calm in Spain as the country 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.

 The Spanish government held its first meeting since imposing direct rule over Catalonia this morning

EPA

The Spanish government held its first meeting since imposing direct rule over Catalonia this morning
 Carles Puigdemont delivered a speech to say he would not acknowledge his dismissal

AP:Associated Press

Carles Puigdemont delivered a speech to say he would not acknowledge his dismissal
 Pro-unity demonstrators with banners calling for the imprisonment of sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, gather in Madrid

Reuters

Pro-unity demonstrators with banners calling for the imprisonment of sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, gather in Madrid
 People wave Spanish flags during a demonstration calling for unity at Plaza de Colon in Madrid

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People wave Spanish flags during a demonstration calling for unity at Plaza de Colon in Madrid

In the pre-recorded, televised message, Puigdemont urged people to continue pushing for independence, saying: “We do not deviate: we continue persevering in the only attitude that can make us winners.

“Without violence, without insults, in an inclusive way, respecting people and symbols, opinions, and also respecting the protests of the Catalans who do not agree with what has decided the parliamentary majority.”

As pro-unity protesters crowds took to the streets on Saturday, screaming “prison for Puigdemont”, the leader said “patience, perseverance and perspective” was needed.

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.

 A man yells as he waves the Spanish flag into the sky

Reuters

A man yells as he waves the Spanish flag into the sky
 People from an extreme right wing group protest during a mass rally by people angry with Catalonia's declaration of independence

AP:Associated Press

People from an extreme right wing group protest during a mass rally by people angry with Catalonia’s declaration of independence
 People took to the streets on Saturday to protest the political upheaval

AP:Associated Press

People took to the streets on Saturday to protest the political upheaval
 People donned flags in the latest protests in Madrid

AFP or licensors

People donned flags in the latest protests in Madrid
 Pro-unity protesters hit the streets on Saturday

AFP or licensors

Pro-unity protesters hit the streets on Saturday
 Spain is teetering on the brink of violence, it has been warned

AFP or licensors

Spain is teetering on the brink of violence, it has been warned
 Fears that Spain is teetering on the brink have surfaced this weekend

AFP or licensors

Fears that Spain is teetering on the brink have surfaced this weekend
 Thousands have taken to the streets, protesting against Catalan independence

AFP or licensors

Thousands have taken to the streets, protesting against Catalan independence
 Pro-Spain protests have been held in Madrid on Saturday

AFP or licensors

Pro-Spain protests have been held in Madrid on Saturday
 A masked Catalan independence supporter punches a man amid violent scenes in Barcelona last night
A masked Catalan independence supporter punches a man amid violent scenes in Barcelona last night
 Spanish protesters wave flags as riot police look on in Barcelona

AP:Associated Press

Spanish protesters wave flags as riot police look on in Barcelona
 A Catalan riot police stands as anti-independence supporters march against the landmark vote

AP:Associated Press

A Catalan riot police stands as anti-independence supporters march against the landmark vote
 A pro unity demonstrator displays a Spanish flag to Catalan Regional Police officers during a protest

Reuters

A pro unity demonstrator displays a Spanish flag to Catalan Regional Police officers during a protest
 A Catalan radio station was allegedly attacked by a small group of demonstrators with Spanish flags

EPA

A Catalan radio station was allegedly attacked by a small group of demonstrators with Spanish flags
Protestor punches man in the face at Catalonian rally in Barcelona, Spain
 Catalan flags are held up as fireworks go off in Sant Jaume Square in front of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona

Reuters

Catalan flags are held up as fireworks go off in Sant Jaume Square in front of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona
 Catalan flags were paraded through the streets of Barcelona after the rebel region declared independence from Spain

AP:Associated Press

Catalan flags were paraded through the streets of Barcelona after the rebel region declared independence from Spain
 Proud Catalans wave flags and celebrate in Barcelona

Reuters

Proud Catalans wave flags and celebrate in Barcelona
Carles Puigdemont says Catalonian people ‘will not’ accept PM Mariano Rajoy’s decision to fire him

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.

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.

 Holding Spanish flags, demonstrators confront Catalan police

AP:Associated Press

Holding Spanish flags, demonstrators confront Catalan police
 Catalan independence supporters massed outside the Parliament of Catalonia react with joy just at the news that the Catalan Parliament votes to declare independence from Spain

Getty – Contributor

Catalan independence supporters massed outside the Parliament of Catalonia react with joy just at the news that the Catalan Parliament votes to declare independence from Spain
 Anti-independence supporters shout slogans and wave Spanish flags as they march against the unilateral declaration of independence

AP:Associated Press

Anti-independence supporters shout slogans and wave Spanish flags as they march against the unilateral declaration of independence
 A young woman celebrates outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona

AFP or licensors

A young woman celebrates outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona
 A Catalan supporter displays a portrait of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, two key members of the independence movement

Getty Images – Getty

A Catalan supporter displays a portrait of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, two key members of the independence movement
 A Barcelona fan is pictured among the crowds celebrating in the Catalan capital

Reuters

A Barcelona fan is pictured among the crowds celebrating in the Catalan capital
 Puigdemont remained defiant, tweeting: 'Catalonia is and will be a land of freedom'

AFP or licensors

Puigdemont remained defiant, tweeting: ‘Catalonia is and will be a land of freedom’
 Young independence supporters appear to be overcome with emotion on the streets of Barcelona

Rex Features

Young independence supporters appear to be overcome with emotion on the streets of Barcelona
 Catalan independence supporters continued to celebrate late into the evening

Reuters

Catalan independence supporters continued to celebrate late into the evening
 A man wearing a Barcelona strip celebrates with hundreds more despite the controversy surrounding the vote

Alamy Live News

A man wearing a Barcelona strip celebrates with hundreds more despite the controversy surrounding the vote
 It is feared the vote could lead to the collapse of Spain

Reuters

It is feared the vote could lead to the collapse of Spain
 A woman drinks from a bottle of wine in celebration of the controversial vote

AP:Associated Press

A woman drinks from a bottle of wine in celebration of the controversial vote
 Separatist lawmakers hold their ceremonial staves into the air after a vote on independence in the Catalan parliament in Barcelona

AP:Associated Press

Separatist lawmakers hold their ceremonial staves into the air after a vote on independence in the Catalan parliament in Barcelona
 People celebrate after the Catalan regional parliament passes the vote of independence from Spain

Reuters

People celebrate after the Catalan regional parliament passes the vote of independence from Spain

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.

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.

Tensions rise in Barcelona as Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy dissolves Catalan parliament and calls snap election
 Catalan chief of police Josep Lluis Trapero has been sacked

EPA

Catalan chief of police Josep Lluis Trapero has been sacked
 People wave Catalan separatist flags during celebrations in Sant Jaume square in Barcelona

Reuters

People wave Catalan separatist flags during celebrations in Sant Jaume square in Barcelona
 People were seen celebrating in Barcelona after the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain

Reuters

People were seen celebrating in Barcelona after the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain
 Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is seen handing in his ballot paper on Friday

Getty Images – Getty

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is seen handing in his ballot paper on Friday
Huge crowds gather in Barcelona as Catalan parliament votes to declare independence from Spain

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.

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

Rex Features

Spain now faces being ripped apart following the controversial vote
Tensions rise in Barcelona as Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy dissolves Catalan parliament and calls snap election
 Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy intends to take direct control of Catalonia

Reuters

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy intends to take direct control of Catalonia
 The latest move is sure to spark fears of a civil war

AFP or licensors

The latest move is sure to spark fears of a civil war
 Emotional independence supporters were seen in tears during the processions

EPA

Emotional independence supporters were seen in tears during the processions
 There were tears of joy as the results of the vote were announced

AFP or licensors

There were tears of joy as the results of the vote were announced

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.

 People raise arms as they gather during celebrations in Sant Jaume square

Reuters

People raise arms as they gather during celebrations in Sant Jaume square
 Independence supporters waved banners as they took to the streets

AP:Associated Press

Independence supporters waved banners as they took to the streets
 Tears filled the eyes of some independence supporters in emotional scenes

Getty Images – Getty

Tears filled the eyes of some independence supporters in emotional scenes

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.

 A pro unity demonstrator stands in front of Catalan Regional Police officers during a protest

Reuters

A pro unity demonstrator stands in front of Catalan Regional Police officers during a protest
 A demonstrator confronts Catalan riot police

AP:Associated Press

A demonstrator confronts Catalan riot police
 Independence supporters celebrate in the streets on a landmark day

Getty Images – Getty

Independence supporters celebrate in the streets on a landmark day
 The crowds clapped and shouted 'independence' in Catalan before singing the regional hymn, many raising their fists

Reuters

The crowds clapped and shouted ‘independence’ in Catalan before singing the regional hymn, many raising their fists
 Just minutes after the results were announced, the Spanish Senate granted Madrid powers to impose direct rule on Catalonia

AFP or licensors

Just minutes after the results were announced, the Spanish Senate granted Madrid powers to impose direct rule on Catalonia
 Tens of thousands celebrated in the streets of Barcelona after the vote was announced

AFP or licensors

Tens of thousands celebrated in the streets of Barcelona after the vote was announced
 Independence supporters massed near the Catalan parliament on Friday

Reuters

Independence supporters massed near the Catalan parliament on Friday
 Rajoy has called his Cabinet for a crisis meeting to roll out the first measures to take back control

AFP or licensors

Rajoy has called his Cabinet for a crisis meeting to roll out the first measures to take back control
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont thanks the people of Catalonia after voting for independence from Spain

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

AFP or licensors

Separatist lawmakers hold their ceremonial staves into the air after a vote on independence in the Catalan parliament
 The motion was passed in the 135-strong assembly with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two blank ballots

Getty Images – Getty

The motion was passed in the 135-strong assembly with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two blank ballots
 The disputed vote is now likely to be declared illegal by Spain's constitutional court

Reuters

The disputed vote is now likely to be declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court

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.”

Carles Puigdemont says Catalonian people ‘will not’ accept PM Mariano Rajoy’s decision to fire him
 Local police have said 450,000 have joined in the demonstration

Reuters

Local police have said 450,000 have joined in the demonstration
 Spain announced that it will move to dismiss Catalonia's separatist government and call fresh elections which has angered supporters of independence

AFP

Spain announced that it will move to dismiss Catalonia’s separatist government and call fresh elections which has angered supporters of independence
 Pro-independence demonstrators joined the protest in the Spanish city

Getty Images – Getty

Pro-independence demonstrators joined the protest in the Spanish city
 People in the crowd held up handcuffs labelled with 'Spanish democracy?'

Reuters

People in the crowd held up handcuffs labelled with ‘Spanish democracy?’
Tens of thousands take to the streets of Barcelona protesting at police treatment during Catalonia independence referendum

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

Getty Images – Getty

Dozens of people protested the Spanish government announcement
 They held up signs with demands as they campaigned for independence for the region

EPA

They held up signs with demands as they campaigned for independence for the region
 The region's president was pictured at the protest

EPA

The region’s president was pictured at the protest
 Thousands came out in support of the region's aim of getting independence

AFP

Thousands came out in support of the region’s aim of getting independence
 Flags were waved and banners displayed as thousands came out to march today

AFP or licensors

Flags were waved and banners displayed as thousands came out to march today
 A young pro-independence demonstrator holding a flag

Getty Images – Getty

A young pro-independence demonstrator holding a flag
 Protesters held up signs and flags as they marched against the announcement made by the Spanish Prime Minister

AFP

Protesters held up signs and flags as they marched against the announcement made by the Spanish Prime Minister
 Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has requested powers to dissolve Catalonia's government

Getty Images – Getty

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has requested powers to dissolve Catalonia’s government
Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy approves taking back powers from Catalonia
 Mr Rajoy made the announcement following a meeting of his cabinet

Getty – Pool

Mr Rajoy made the announcement following a meeting of his cabinet

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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