Huge crowds gather in Barcelona as Spanish police raid Catalonia government offices

Spain has cancelled all time off for police in Catalonia as tensions rise ahead of a planned referendum on the region's independence.

Spain has cancelled all time off for police officers in Catalonia as tensions rise ahead of a planned referendum on the region's independence. Huge angry crowds have gathered in Barcelona after Spanish police raided local government offices and arrested several officials.

Huge crowds gather outside the Catalan region's economy ministry building in Barcelona after junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove was arrested by Spanish police during a raid on several government officesAlbert Gea/Reuters

Police efforts to stop the 1 October vote on splitting from Spain have intensified in recent days as the region shows no signs of halting the referendum which the central government says is illegal. The National Catalan Assembly — the driving force behind the push for independence — called for supporters to rally peacefully outside local government offices on the corner of Rambla de Catalunya and Gran Via.

State police entered offices of the Catalan region's economy, interior, foreign affairs, welfare, telecommunications and tax departments. La Vanguardia newspaper said a dozen high-ranking local officials were arrested, including junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove, who was stopped by police while driving his daughter to school.

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Thousands protest after Spanish police raid Catalan ministry ahead of banned independence voteReuters

Pro-independence supporters scuffled with Spanish Civil Guard officers escorting a government official out of the headquarters of the region's department of foreign affairs in Barcelon. Xavier Puig, the IT manager in the department, was one of at least 12 officials arrested in police raids. The protesters tried to block a police vehicle and some scuffles ensued. There were no reports of arrests or injuries.

People holding Esteladas (Catalan pro-independence flags) attend a protest near the Economy headquarters of Catalonia's regional government in BarcelonaPau Barrena/AFP
People shout slogans outside the Catalan Vice-President and Economy office as police search the building in BarcelonaDavid Ramos/Getty Images
A protestor holds up a sign in front of Catalan police officers outside the Catalan region's foreign affairs ministry building during a raid by Spanish policeSusana Vera/Reuters
People raise their fists during a protest in BarcelonaLluis Gene/AFP
People hold flowers during a protest near the Economy headquarters of Catalonia's regional government in BarcelonaLluis Gene/AFP
People demonstrate on a Spanish Civil Guard Police car outside the Catalan Vice-President and Economy office in BarcelonaDavid Ramos/Getty Images
A woman argues with demonstrators after they blocked Gran Via street outside the Catalan Vice-President and Economy officeDavid Ramos/Getty Images
Protesters sit in front of the headquarters of Catalonia's regional foreign affairs ministry in BarcelonaPau Barrena/AFP
Catalan regional police officers, Mossos D'Esquadra, try to disperse protesters in front of the headquarters of Catalonia's foreign affairs ministry in BarcelonaPau Barrena/AFP
People surround Spanish Civil Guard Police cars outside the Catalan Vice-President and finance office in BarcelonaDavid Ramos/Getty Images
People block the road in front of a Catalan police van outside the Vice-President and Economy officeDavid Ramos/Getty Images
Young people demonstrate outside the Catalan Vice-President and Economy officeDavid Ramos/Getty Images
Former deputy of the pro-Independence Popular Unity Candidacy party David Fernandez talks with police in front of CUP headquarters in BarcelonaJosep Lago/AFP

Spain's central government says the referendum goes against the country's 1978 constitution which states Spain is indivisible. Police, acting under court orders, have stepped up raids on printers, newspaper offices and private delivery companies in recent days in a search for campaign literature, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.

Police seized nearly 10 million ballot papers that Catalan regional authorities planned to use in the independence referendum. A ministry statement said police also confiscated polling station signs and documents for voting officials in a raid on a warehouse in a small town outside Barcelona.

Confiscated ballots for the proposed referendum on independence are shown during a raid on a warehouse in Bigues i Riells outside BarcelonaMinisterio del Interior-Guardia Civil/Reuters
Catalan regional police officers stand between protesters and Spanish Civil Guards at the private postal service company Unipost in TerrassaLluis Gene/AFP
Catalan regional police officers stand in front of protesters holding an Estelada (Catalan pro-independence flag) at the private postal service company Unipost in TerrassaLluis Gene/AFP
Protesters clash with Catalan regional police officers as the Spanish Guardia Civil search the private postal service company Unipost in TerrassaLluis Gene/AFP
Catalan regional police officers detain a man during a protest at the private postal service company Unipost in TerrassaLluis Gene/AFP

The fiercely pro-independence leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, called an emergency meeting of his Cabinet. He said Spain is showing a "totalitarian attitude" with the arrests of Catalan officials and civil servants. He vowed Catalonia will go ahead with the independence referendum despite legal warnings not to do so.

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont gives a speech in BarcelonaJosep Lago/AFP

Barcelona Football Club put out a statement saying it condemns anyone trying to halt Catalonia's plan to hold the referendum. The club said it "will continue to support the will of the majority of Catalan people, and will do so in a civil, peaceful, and exemplary way."

Spain's Interior Ministry says all time off and holiday will be suspended for Civil Guard and National Police officers assigned to ensure that the Constitutional Court's halting of Catalonia's planned independence referendum is heeded. A ministry statement said the measure will run initially from Wednesday until 5 October – four days after the planned referendum.

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