Catalan protesters say they will stop Puigdemont’s arrest

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Catalan separatists have vowed to surround parliament or any building which their leader Carles Puigdemont is in to create a human shield and prevent his arrest as tensions between Madrid and the region.  

The announcement from pro-independence separatists raises the possibility of further clashes or violence between protesters and the Spanish government. 

Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull told Catalunya radio: ‘Yesterday there was a fully-fledged coup against Catalan institutions.

‘What happens now, with everyone in agreement and unity, is that we will announce what we will do and how.’

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis’s statement fired back after Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy stripped Catalan politicians of their powers and centralised powers back to Madrid.  

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags during a demonstration in the northern Spain Basque village of Beasain on Sunday. The demonstration came as Catalan separatists vowed to surround parliament or any building which their leader Carles Puigdemont is in to create a human shield and prevent his arrest

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags during a demonstration in the northern Spain Basque village of Beasain on Sunday. The demonstration came as Catalan separatists vowed to surround parliament or any building which their leader Carles Puigdemont is in to create a human shield and prevent his arrest

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags during a demonstration in the northern Spain Basque village of Beasain on Sunday. The demonstration came as Catalan separatists vowed to surround parliament or any building which their leader Carles Puigdemont is in to create a human shield and prevent his arrest

The protest action in Beasain was organized by "Gure esku dago" (It's in our hands) association supporting the right for a referendum on self determination in Catalonia. The announcement from pro-independence separatists to protect Puigdemont raises the possibility of further clashes or violence between protesters and the Spanish government

The protest action in Beasain was organized by "Gure esku dago" (It's in our hands) association supporting the right for a referendum on self determination in Catalonia. The announcement from pro-independence separatists to protect Puigdemont raises the possibility of further clashes or violence between protesters and the Spanish government

The protest action in Beasain was organized by “Gure esku dago” (It’s in our hands) association supporting the right for a referendum on self determination in Catalonia. The announcement from pro-independence separatists to protect Puigdemont raises the possibility of further clashes or violence between protesters and the Spanish government

People hold flags reading "Democracy" and "Yes" as they take part in a human chain between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Lazkao on Sunday

People hold flags reading "Democracy" and "Yes" as they take part in a human chain between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Lazkao on Sunday

People hold flags reading “Democracy” and “Yes” as they take part in a human chain between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Lazkao on Sunday

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags as they take part in a human chain between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Beasain

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags as they take part in a human chain between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Beasain

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags as they take part in a human chain between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Beasain

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags during a demonstration on Sunday

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags during a demonstration on Sunday

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags during a demonstration on Sunday

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Lazkao on Sunday

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Lazkao on Sunday

People hold Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags and Basque Country flags between villages in the northern Spain Basque village of Lazkao on Sunday

Spain’s Foreign Minister said on Sunday that he hopes the people of Catalonia will disregard local leadership if the country suspends the region’s autonomy and takes direct rule. 

‘All the government is trying to do, and reluctantly, is to reinstate the legal order, to restore the constitution but also the Catalan rules and proceed from there,’ Dastis told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. 

‘We are going to establish the authorities who are going to rule the day-to-day affairs of Catalonia according to the Catalan laws and norms. 

‘I hope everyone will disregard whatever instructions they will be planning to give because they will not have the legal authority to do that.’ 

Spanish authorities had previously announced that they are planning to arrest Puigdemont and charge him with rebellion if he declares independence following his October 1 referendum. 

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his regional executive – who sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades by holding a banned independence referendum on October 1 – will be stripped of their jobs and their ministries taken over under measures announced Saturday Rajoy.

‘Yesterday there was a fully-fledged coup against Catalan institutions,’ said Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull. 

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said on Sunday that he hopes the people of Catalonia will disregard local leadership if the country takes direct rule of the region

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said on Sunday that he hopes the people of Catalonia will disregard local leadership if the country takes direct rule of the region

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said on Sunday that he hopes the people of Catalonia will disregard local leadership if the country takes direct rule of the region

Dastis spoke to BBC's Andrew Marr (pictured above) via video link to update him on the status of Spain and Catalonia on Sunday morning

Dastis spoke to BBC's Andrew Marr (pictured above) via video link to update him on the status of Spain and Catalonia on Sunday morning

Dastis spoke to BBC’s Andrew Marr (pictured above) via video link to update him on the status of Spain and Catalonia on Sunday morning

Spanish authorities announced Saturday that they are planning to arrest Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont and charge him with rebellion if he declares independence

Spanish authorities announced Saturday that they are planning to arrest Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont and charge him with rebellion if he declares independence

Spanish authorities announced Saturday that they are planning to arrest Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont and charge him with rebellion if he declares independence

‘What happens now, with everyone in agreement and unity, is that we will announce what we will do and how,’ he told Catalunya Radio.

Rajoy has taken Spain into uncharted legal waters by moving to wrest back powers from the semi-autonomous region, which could see Madrid take control of the Catalan police force and replace its public media chiefs.

The move sparked outrage among separatists, with nearly half a million taking to the streets of regional capital Barcelona and Puigdemont declaring Rajoy guilty of ‘the worst attack on institutions and Catalan people’ since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Among other repressive measures, Franco – who ruled from 1939 until 1975 – took Catalonia’s powers away and banned official use of the Catalan language.

Though Catalans are deeply split on whether to break away from Spain, autonomy remains a sensitive issue in the northeastern region of 7.5 million people, which fiercely defends its language and culture and has previously enjoyed control over its policing, education and healthcare.

Rajoy said he had no choice but to force Puigdemont out as he refuses to drop his threat to declare independence after a referendum that had been declared unconstitutional.

Responding to accusations of a ‘coup’, Dastis retorted: ‘If there is a coup d’etat, it is one that has been followed by Mr. Puigdemont and his government.’

Pro-Catalan independence protesters in Spain have said they will create human shields around parliament to prevent Puigdemont from being arrested

Pro-Catalan independence protesters in Spain have said they will create human shields around parliament to prevent Puigdemont from being arrested

Pro-Catalan independence protesters in Spain have said they will create human shields around parliament to prevent Puigdemont from being arrested

Waving Catalan flags and sign calling Europe, massive crowd rally to demand the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart at a demonstration for Catalan independence on Saturday

Waving Catalan flags and sign calling Europe, massive crowd rally to demand the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart at a demonstration for Catalan independence on Saturday

Waving Catalan flags and sign calling Europe, massive crowd rally to demand the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart at a demonstration for Catalan independence on Saturday

Asked if Puigdemont will be arrested if he shows up for work, Dastis tried to strike a reassuring tone.

‘We are not going to arrest anyone,’ he told the BBC, dismissing the idea of the army having to be brought in to enforce order.

But he warned that if Puigdemont’s government keeps trying to give orders, ‘they will be equal to any group of rebels trying to impose their own arbitrariness on the people of Catalonia’. 

Spain’s Senate is set to approve Rajoy’s measures by the end of next week.

Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) holds a majority in the upper house, while other major parties also back his efforts to prevent a break-up of the nation.

If the Senate passes the proposals, the Catalan parliament will continue to operate as normal until it is dissolved.

However, it will be unable to elect a new president to replace Puigdemont or vote on any laws that go against Spain’s constitution and its statute as a semi-autonomous region.

Rajoy could force the removal of Catalan officials and call early regional elections for as soon as January. Such actions are expected to spark angry opposition from supporters of independence and moderate Catalans who will see them as an attack on their autonomy.

Puigdemont (center, Catalan deputy president Oriol Junqueras, left, and Carme Forcadell, speaker of the house in the Catalan parliament, right)  joined a large protest in Barcelona on Saturday where many were aghast at the government plans to take over Catalonia announced earlier in the day by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

Puigdemont (center, Catalan deputy president Oriol Junqueras, left, and Carme Forcadell, speaker of the house in the Catalan parliament, right)  joined a large protest in Barcelona on Saturday where many were aghast at the government plans to take over Catalonia announced earlier in the day by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

Puigdemont (center, Catalan deputy president Oriol Junqueras, left, and Carme Forcadell, speaker of the house in the Catalan parliament, right)  joined a large protest in Barcelona on Saturday where many were aghast at the government plans to take over Catalonia announced earlier in the day by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

In a televised address late on Saturday, Puigdemont called Rajoy's plan to replace him and his cabinet an 'attempt to humiliate' Catalonia and an 'attack on democracy'

In a televised address late on Saturday, Puigdemont called Rajoy's plan to replace him and his cabinet an 'attempt to humiliate' Catalonia and an 'attack on democracy'

In a televised address late on Saturday, Puigdemont called Rajoy’s plan to replace him and his cabinet an ‘attempt to humiliate’ Catalonia and an ‘attack on democracy’

The Barcelona protest was called against the imprisonment of Catalan pro-independet leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart in Barcelona

The Barcelona protest was called against the imprisonment of Catalan pro-independet leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart in Barcelona

The Barcelona protest was called against the imprisonment of Catalan pro-independet leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart in Barcelona

Nearly half a million pro-Catalan independence protesters took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday

Nearly half a million pro-Catalan independence protesters took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday

Nearly half a million pro-Catalan independence protesters took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday

In a televised address late on Saturday, Puigdemont called Rajoy’s plan to replace him and his cabinet an ‘attempt to humiliate’ Catalonia and an ‘attack on democracy’. 

He joined the large protest in Barcelona on Saturday where many were aghast at Rajoy’s statement.

The State Attorney General José Manuel Maza confirmed ‘a complaint is being prepared for rebellion’ against the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, and other independence leaders. 

The charge of rebellion could see Puigdemont face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

During the earlier press conference, Rajoy said of his plan to take over Catalonia: ‘It wasn’t our wish, nor our intention. It never was and I think the Spanish public opinion as a whole knows this. 

‘Article 155 is a constitutional article, but it’s only invoked in exceptional circumstances.

‘We are triggering Article 155 because no government of any democratic country, I insist none, can accept that the law is ignored, that the law is violated, that the law is changed and all of this trying to impose their criteria on the rest.’

Rajoy said on Saturday his government had taken the unprecedented decision to restore the law, ensure regional institutions were neutral and guarantee public services

Rajoy said on Saturday his government had taken the unprecedented decision to restore the law, ensure regional institutions were neutral and guarantee public services

Rajoy said on Saturday his government had taken the unprecedented decision to restore the law, ensure regional institutions were neutral and guarantee public services

He added: ‘This is the reason why we have invoked a constitutional article, similar to others in many European Constitutions, that was voted for by all the Spanish people.’ 

In the streets of Barcelona, banging pots and pans and honking cars greeted Rajoy’s announcement. 

Independence campaigners are also angry about the imprisonment of activists Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, who were both leading figures in the October 1 referendum. 

National police said two young people had been charged after physically assaulting police at Saturday’s Barcelona protest, which saw some 450,000 separatists flood the streets shouting ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. 

Photos from protests since the October 1 vote show police violently clashing with demonstrators, though Spain’s Foreign Minister said there was only limited use of force in Catalonia, and many pictures were fake. 

The tense relations between Barcelona and Madrid led one EU official to controversially claim that a ‘civil war’ was ‘imaginable’.

In the streets of Barcelona, banging pots and pans and honking cars greeted Rajoy's announcement. The tense relations between Barcelona and Madrid led one EU official to controversially claim that a 'civil war' was 'imaginable'

In the streets of Barcelona, banging pots and pans and honking cars greeted Rajoy's announcement. The tense relations between Barcelona and Madrid led one EU official to controversially claim that a 'civil war' was 'imaginable'

In the streets of Barcelona, banging pots and pans and honking cars greeted Rajoy’s announcement. The tense relations between Barcelona and Madrid led one EU official to controversially claim that a ‘civil war’ was ‘imaginable’

Waving Catalan flags and sign calling Europe, massive crowd rally to demand the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart at a demonstration for Catalan independence on Saturday

Waving Catalan flags and sign calling Europe, massive crowd rally to demand the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart at a demonstration for Catalan independence on Saturday

Waving Catalan flags and sign calling Europe, massive crowd rally to demand the release of imprisoned Catalan leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart at a demonstration for Catalan independence on Saturday

‘There is a civil war imaginable now in the middle of Europe,’ official Gunther Oettinger said earlier this month. ‘One can only hope that a thread of conversation will soon be recorded between Madrid and Barcelona.’  

Rajoy said on Saturday his government had taken the unprecedented decision to restore the law, ensure regional institutions were neutral and guarantee public services. 

The slow-burning constitutional crisis over secession escalated this month when regional government officials claimed a disputed independence referendum held October 1 gave them a legal basis for separating from Spain.

The country’s Constitutional Court has so far ruled against all moves toward secession, including the controversial referendum.

The vote itself was marred by sporadic violence as police took action to shut down some polling locations. The central government says the results have no legitimacy.

Opposition parties have agreed to support the prime minister in revoking Catalonia’s autonomy as a way to thwart the independence drive.