King Felipe of Spain lashed out against Catalan authorities on Tuesday in a rare televised statement, following the protest of a police crackdown on citizens following a hotly contested independence referendum.
“With their decisions, they have systematically undermined the rules approved legally and legitimately, showing an unacceptable disloyalty towards the powers of the state — a state that represents Catalan interests,” Felipe said.
Hundreds of thousands of Catalonians took to the streets after Spanish officials tried to prevent the ‘banned’ vote from taking place – with up to 700,000 gathered in Barcelona.
Protesters in Barcelona said they were motivated by rampant police violence during the vote – which resulted in 893 people injured while riot police raided polling stations – dragging away voters and spraying the crowd with rubber bullets.
“This is a protest against police violence and maintaining momentum after Sunday,” said firefighter Victor Noguer, 27.
“The streets will always be ours,” protesters chanted, some of them draped in the blue, yellow and red Estelada flag used by Catalan separatists.
Officers from the Guardia Civil and the Catalan police force stood guard outside the local headquarters of the Spanish government in Barcelona, where hundreds of firefighters gathered. Other groups of protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the national police, shouting “Spanish police get out!“
In an interview with CNN at a police control center in the city, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau condemned Rajoy’s decision to deploy national security forces as “seriously irresponsible.”
“Why is he throwing thousands of police officers against the population,” asked Colau, who does not support Catalan independence but was in favor of holding the referendum. “Why is he keeping thousands of police officers on standby in the city of Barcelona and in Catalonia? What is the message of fear he wants to send?”
On Tuesday the Guardia Civil Police union, the AGUC, filed a complaint with the Catalan high court against the Catalan police – claiming they failed in their duties by not enforcing a court ruling banning the referendum vote.
A second complaint was filed by the AGUC in connection with the eviction of 200 cops from a Hotel Villa, and calls for a judicial inquiry into claims that the mayor of Catalan threatened to yank the hotel’s license if they allowed Spanish national police to stay there.
Not clear cut
While the Catalan government says it earned the right to split from Spain – claiming 90% of voters on Sunday favored independence, turnout was low, at around 42%. Catalan authorities blame the police crackdown.
While it’s clear that Catalonia is divided on independence, President Carles Puigdemont have not yet declared a split. Puigdemont has called for international mediation.