Spain to send extra police to Catalonia if independence referendum goes ahead

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

The control of the Catalan police has become a sensitive topic as the political confrontation between the pro-independence regional government and central authorities has poured on to the streets of Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia.

Spain will deploy police reinforcements to Catalonia to help maintain order if an independence referendum pledged by Catalan officials but opposed by the national government goes ahead, officials said Friday.

On the same day that the mass protest took place, the CNP raided several Catalan government offices using a court mandate, confiscating between nine and 10 million blank ballots to be used in the upcoming referendum.

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.

"They will be tasked with surveillance of public space and maintaining order and they will act in case the illegal referendum is maintained", the interior ministry said in a statement.

The Catalan National Assembly civic group has called for the protests to continue until the regional officials are released.

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They would join the roughly 5,000 state police normally stationed in Catalonia and around 17,000 Mossos officers. A statement said the six declined to give evidence.

An unusual aspect of his is that three ferries have been bringing police into the city of Barcelona en masse, and all are festooned with Looney Tunes characters, part of a promotion being run by the company that owns the ferries.

They remain under investigation for disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement in relation to the planned referendum and were ordered to appear before the court every week.

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

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain's 1.1-trillion-euro ($1.32 trillion) economy and enjoys wide self-government.

An Interior Ministry official said Saturday's measure did "not mean taking command" of the Catalan police, but that it was "simply to agree on a means of co-ordination". The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters.

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