Students Protest in Barcelona Against Crackdown on Catalan Officials

Catalan bishops call for calm as Spain cracks down on independence vote

News reports says Spanish police have arrested 12 people in raids on offices of the regional government of Catalonia as a crackdown intensifies on the region's preparations for a secession vote that Spain says is illegal.

Even so, he remained confident there will be a large turnout of Catalans on October 1-whatever form the vote takes.

The ministry did not say how many extra federal police are being sent but local media put the figure at 3,000 to 4,000.

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. A statement said the six declined to testify.

Hundreds of pro-independence supporters had protested outside the courthouse in the town of Hospitalet de Llobregat to demand the officials' release.

A demonstrator holds up a banner reading "We vote to be free" as she tries with others to stop the auto carrying Xavier Puig, a senior official of the Catalan government, after he was arrested by Guardia Civil officers in Barcelona, Sept. 20.

About 2,000 students were still staging a separate pro-referendum demonstration at one of Barcelona's main universities.

Sturgeon's National Party has formerly called for a fresh vote on independence before Britain leaves the European Union (EU). The next day, Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan law on referendum.

The political uncertainty in Catalonia has reportedly forced the country's government to postpone its push in parliament to approve the 2018 budget as Spain's Basque nationalist party (PNV) has, for the time being at least, apparently threatened to withdraw its support.

The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters, and polls consistently show the region's inhabitants favour a referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence from Spain.

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