Catalonia Starts Independence Referendum Campaign

People attend a Catalan pro-independence meeting at Tarraco Arena in Tarragona, south of Barcelona, Spain on September 14.People attend a Catalan pro-independence meeting at Tarraco Arena in Tarragona, south of Barcelona, Spain on September 14.

Catalan separatists have officially launched their campaign for an independence referendum. The region has also said it will stop sending financial accounts to Madrid to prove public funds aren’t going to the referendum.

Crowds packed into a bull ring in the port of Tarragona on Thursday night to open the pro-independence campaign for a planned referendum on seceding from Spain, DW reported.

Supporters sporting makeshift ballot boxes as hats shouted “We will vote!” as they waved around non-official ballot papers.

The Catalan National Assembly, the largest Catalan independence platform, posted images on Twitter of people crowded in the stands and on the floor of the bull ring.

The high-profile event was attended by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont as well as representatives from Catalonia’s main pro-independence parties and associations.

The “yes” camp has two weeks to rally support for the vote and win over critics who are reluctant to take part in the referendum, which is due to take place on October 1.

A July poll commissioned by the regional government found that 41.1% of Catalans supported independence, while 49.4% opposed it. Over 70%, however, said they wanted a referendum on the matter.

However, the conservative government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has argued that the vote would be illegal, and Spain’s Constitutional Court has suspended the referendum pending a formal decision by judges.

The credibility of the referendum got a boost on Thursday when Barcelona’s mayor said the vote would be allowed to take place in the city. Mayor Ada Colau tweeted that people would be allowed to vote “without putting institutions or public workers at risk.” She said the regional government’s facilities in Barcelona will be used as polling stations.

Colau initially refused to make local public facilities available out of concern that civil servants could lose their jobs. She also warned that facilitating the vote could be considered illegal.

Catalonia’s regional government also said in a letter that it would no longer send weekly financial accounts to Madrid.


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