Catalan Mayors Defy Spanish Courts Ahead of Independence Vote

A man stands in the street reading a pamphlet urging people to vote during an event to support the Catalonia independence referendum in Madrid Spain Sunday Sept. 17 2017. Political tensions in Spain are increasing as the proposed voting date of Oct. 1

A man stands in the street reading a pamphlet urging people to vote during an event to support the Catalonia independence referendum in Madrid Spain Sunday Sept. 17 2017. Political tensions in Spain are increasing as the proposed voting date of Oct. 1

Thousands of Basques holding banners that read "we want to decide" marched on Saturday (Sep 16) in support of Catalonia's independence referendum to separate from Madrid, which Basque separatists have long fought for.

The mayors met Catalonia's regional head Carles Puigdemont in a show of defiance at the rally.

Along with hundreds of flag-waving protesters in downtown Barcelona, the mayors gave speeches in which they promised continued support for the referendum.

Political tensions in Spain are increasing as the proposed voting date of October 1 nears.

"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.

Catalonia's regional police force is under orders to arrest the mayors if they refuse to appear for questioning in an investigation into the vote, which Spain's constitutional court has suspended, State Prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza's office said. "This is not about independence, it's about our rights", said Colau. Organizing the referendum will be almost impossible without the cooperation of local municipalities. During regional elections in 2015, secessionists had gained 47.6% of votes (but a majority in seats), and camp supporting maintenance in Spain 51,28 %.

Police have also raided a printing house and several other premises in search of ballot papers and boxes as well as other materials to be used for the referendum. "Eighty percent of the Catalan citizenship is in favor of the referendum of self-determination to ask Catalans whether or not they want independence", Anna Arque from the EU Partnership for Independence told RT.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is bringing the full weight of the state to bear to prevent Catalonia's independence referendum. Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said on Friday that the central government would take over the funding of most essential public services in the region unless Puigdemont guaranteed public cash was not being used to fund the referendum.

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