MADRID (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, tens of thousands of people across Spain participated in rallies against the central government's operation aimed at preventing Catalonia from holding an independence referendum, set for October 1 by the autonomous region's President Carles Puigdemont. The largest rally was held in front of Catalonia's Ministry of Economy and was attended by about 40,000. During the night a number of clashes between protesters and police officers took place.
Within the framework of Madrid's activities, more than 10 people have been detained and Spain’s Civil Guard held over 40 search operations related to the preparations for the independence vote.
The largest of Thursday's rallies is being held in Barcelona in front of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. The event has been organized by such pro-independence groups as Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). Thousands of people attending the public event are calling on authorities to free the politicians and officials detained on Wednesday.
The protesters are chanting slogans, such as "We will vote!" and "Here begins our independence!" They also sing the song dubbed Els Segadors (The Reapers in Catalan), which is the official anthem of the region and carry the Estelada flags, which are symbols of regional independence.
Earlier in the day, students of regional universities also held a number of rallies opposing the activities of the central government with regard to the independence supporters. According to the El Pais newspaper, at the moment about 300 students are blocking Avinguda Diagonal, one of the largest streets of Barcelona.
The dockers of regional ports have also refused to service vessels, where the servicemen of Spain’s Civil Guard will be accommodated by the central government amid the escalation of tensions in the region. Two such vessels is in the port of Barcelona and one more is in the port of Tarragona. According to the dockers' association, it has made such a decision in order "to protect civil rights" amid Madrid's searches and detentions in Catalonia.
Catalonia has long sought independence from Spain, but the country's central government has repeatedly declined to grant the region independence, saying it would violate the country’s constitution.