Catalan mayors defy Spanish courts ahead of independence vote
BARCELONA: More than 700 mayors from across Catalonia gathered in Barcelona on Saturday to confirm their support for a planned independence referendum that Madrid has declared illegal.
The Catalan government plans to hold a referendum on self rule for the wealthy northeastern region on Oct. 1, despite strong opposition from government which has challenged the vote in the Constitutional Court.
The mayors met with Catalonia’s regional head Carles Puigdemont in a show of defiance, following Spanish prosecutors warning earlier this week that officials engaging in any preparations for the vote could be charged with civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds.
On Wednesday, Spanish prosecutors summoned for questioning more than 700 mayors who had said they would allow municipal spaces to be used for voting. If the mayors do not respond to the order, police should arrest them, the order said.
Meeting in downtown Barcelona in front of hundreds of flag waving pro-independence protesters, the mayors gave speeches in which they promised continued support for the referendum amid chants of “we will vote” and “independence.”
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who has reached an agreement with the Catalan regional government to allow voting in the city, criticized Madrid’s response to the crisis in a short speech in the city hall. “It’s a disgrace that we have a government that is incapable of dialogue and instead dedicates itself to pursuing and intimidating mayors and the media,” Colau said.