Tensions high in Barcelona ahead of Catalonia’s secession deadline

World Today

People gather to protest against the National Court’s decision to imprison civil society leaders without bail, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. Spain’s top court also ruled Tuesday that a recent independence referendum in Catalonia was unconstitutional, a day after a Madrid judge provisionally jailed two Catalan independence leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, in a sedition probe.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Activists for and against Catalonia’s bid for independence are working overtime to get their message out ahead of Thursday’s deadline from Spain.

CGTN’S Stephanie Freid reports on the historic divide over Catalonia’s future.

Elena, who works with one of the country’s leading independence movements, said Spain’s central government heightened the strain Monday night by arresting her group’s leader on charges of sedition.

“To put them in jail, that’s something I that I thought I would never see [in] Europe,” said Elena Jimenez Botias, an International Liaison for the Omnium Cultural Group.

Josep Lago, an activist with a 20,000-member pro-unity group called Societat Civil Catalana, is also taken aback by Catalonia’s recent developments

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” he said. “The fact that there’s talk of invoking Article 155 proves the exceptional time we’re living in, even for someone in their 80’s or 90’s. The tension and climate we’re seeing now is unprecedented.”

Article 155 of Spain’s constitution calls for autonomous entities like Catalonia to fulfill state obligations or be stripped of power.

If Catalonia’s regional leader returns a “yes to independence” answer to Spain’s central government on Thursday, Article 155 may be invoked for the first time in Spanish history.

“What’s the other option? Not to—to repress, and to repress population, its own citizens,” Botias said. “To repress us, to put us in jail. To do what? It’s full of families and peaceful citizens.”

But Josep says pro-independence activists aren’t always peaceful.

“When we try to hold meetings, they bar us from entering our conference rooms,” he said. “We put up banners and they tear them down. They spray smear campaign graffiti against us on campus.”

One fear is overflow, Josep explained.

“Actions taken against us on campuses could spill over onto the streets if activists Article 155 is invoked and activists fight back.”

If violence erupts, Spain’s government will likely dispatch its national police police force to Catalonia’s streets.