A member of the Catalan police Mossos d’Esquadra is seen at the Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park), which houses the Catalan regional parliament, in Barcelona on October 10, 2017 ahead of an address by Catalonia’s leader. (AFP photo)
Police forces in the Spanish city of Barcelona have surrounded the regional parliament compound hours ahead of a potential declaration of independence of Catalonia.
The Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s regional police force, said on its Twitter page on Tuesday that security measures were imposed around the park where the parliament is located as there was the risk that opponents and supporters of Catalonia’s independence campaign could approach the area during a planned session in which regional leaders may declare Catalonia’s independence from Spain
“For security reasons, Parc de la Ciutadella is closed to the public today,” said the short statement, without elaborating.
Several blue police vans were parked outside of the parliament building while metal barriers were set up at the entrance to the park.
A police spokesman said authorities hoped to “prevent any situation that would put pressure on parliamentary activity.”
“We are trying to avoid these situations, both on the part of pro-unity protesters as well as by groups of radical separatists,” he said.
The spokesman added that “a group of people forced their way into the park and threw objects against the parliament building” on Sunday, when hundreds of thousands of people staged a massive rally in Barcelona against the independence drive.
The photo shows a demonstration in Barcelona called by “Societat Civil Catalans” (Catalan Civil Society) to support the unity of Spain, October 8, 2017. (AFP photo)
Separatist organizations in Catalonia have called on supporters of independence to gather in front of the parliament “to support and defend the declaration of independence.”
The calls come as Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont could finally declare independence during the Tuesday parliamentary session, more than a week after a controversial referendum in which around 90 percent from a population of 2.3 million voters, less than half of those eligible to vote in Catalonia, endorsed the independence campaign. The vote came amid some unprecedented tensions on the streets as more than 900 people were injured in clashes with the police.
The Spanish government in Madrid has labeled the entire process of seeking referendum in Catalonia as illegal, including the referendum and the Tuesday vote in the regional parliament.
The political crisis, the most serious for Spain in nearly four decades, have hugely affected the economically-vibrant Catalonia, as major companies and banks have either moved their headquarters out of Barcelona or have announced plans to do so if regional leaders declare independence.