On September 20, 2017, the Spanish Civil Guard carried out multiple searches and detentions in the Catalan government offices amid the regional authorities’ preparations for the October 1 independence vote. The raids were accompanied by large-scale rallies, organized by the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural pro-independence associations.
"September 20 was the day when the [central] government started its provocations. We realized back then that it is ready to do everything in order to stop the referendum on self-determination from happening," Elisenda Paluzie, the incumbent president of the Catalan National Assembly, said during the Thursday rally.
The September 2017 rallies turned violent as the protesters blocked several Guardia Civil staff in the Catalan economy and finance department building, prompting the police to push the protesters from the building. The rally-goers responded to this move by throwing bottles at the law enforcement.
Moreover, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the leaders of the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural, were arrested on sedition charges in the run-up to the independence vote.
The organizers of the Thursday rally read out a letter by Sanchez and Cuixart, in which the two politicians expressed their commitment to achieving Catalonia’s independence.
In the October 2017 referendum, over 90 percent of voters supported Catalonia’s independence from Spain. However, the vote was decried by the Spanish central authorities, which subsequently dismissed the regional government and parliament, and introduced direct rule over the region.
Several prominent pro-independence Catalan politicians were jailed as a result of the campaign, while ex-head of the regional government, Carles Puigdemont, fled Spain to escape rebellion and embezzlement charges.