Hundreds of Catalan mayors rally in Barcelona for independence vote


MADRID — More than 500 mayors from the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia demonstrated on Saturday in support of a planned October 1 referendum on Catalonian independence.

The protestors gathered at the University of Barcelona and handed a letter of support to the separatist Catalonian premier, Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont said that, regardless of warnings from the central government in Madrid and several judicial bans, the referendum would take place.

“We’re making [the State] anxious, and we will continue to make them anxious,” he said among loud cheers. “Oppression by the Spanish state” could be countered only by massive voter participation, Puigdemont said.

The regional parliament in approved the vote last autumn. The government in Madrid – headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy – views the vote as illegal. Under the Spanish constitution, referendums on sovereignty must be held nationally, not regionally.

In March, Puigdemont’s predecessor Artur Mas was banned from holding office for two years after organizing an illegal Catalonian independence referendum in 2014.

Catalonia, an economically-powerful autonomous community in north-eastern Spain, has a prominent independence movement. According to media estimates, the mayors who assembled for Saturday’s demonstration represent only 43 per cent of the Catalonian population.

Some 787 of the region’s 948 municipalities are members of the Association of Municipalities for the Independence of Catalonia.