Death threats as Catalan referendum debate turns ugly

“If not evolution then revolution”: temperature rises in Catalonia as independence vote looms

A large and noisy demonstration lasting more than 24 hours in Barcelona against the raids and arrests dispersed on Friday afternoon after the officials were released.

Catalonia, which wants to hold a vote on October 1 to split from Spain, has its own police called Mossos d'Esquadra, though the state police Guardia Civil has quarters throughout the region and often works alongside them.

Acting on a judge's orders, police seized 10 million ballot papers and arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials, suspected of coordinating the referendum.

Protests have been ongoing in the city since Wednesday, as people took to the streets to defend a referendum that they consider to be democratic and the Spanish state considers illegal and unconstitutional.

An Interior Ministry statement said the extra police would provide backing for the Catalan regional police, who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

Hundreds entered the main building of Barcelona University and occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university managers. It didn't say how many extra police would be sent.

Catalonia's executive admitted Thursday that plans for an outlawed independence referendum had been dealt a major blow by a police crackdown, but vowed to press ahead, urging support from the worldwide community.

Some are billeted in three ferries rented by the Spanish government and moored in the harbours of Barcelona and Tarragona because of both a shortage of temporary housing and to avoid clashes between protesters and police forces. Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras acknowledged that the crackdown had disrupted the referendum plans.

Legal and judicial associations said Thursday's court protest was an attack on the judiciary's independence and should be ignored.

The Catalan National Assembly civic group has called for the protests to continue until the near dozen officials detained Wednesday are released.

Spain's central government says the planned referendum violates Spain's constitution, and the Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended while it studies its legality.

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