Europe

Catalans rally for independence vote after setback

Catalan pro-independence supporters gather to protest against the Spanish Constitutional Court in front of the Generalitat de Catalunya in Barcelona - 30 September 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption About 5,000 campaigners braved poor weather to take to the streets of Barcelona

Thousands of Catalans have joined protests against Spain's Constitutional Court after it suspended a proposed regional independence referendum.

About 5,000 people took to the streets of the regional capital Barcelona to demand their right to vote on Tuesday.

Earlier, the Catalan government said it was halting its publicity campaign for the referendum while it sought to overturn the court's ruling.

The vote was suspended after a request from the Spanish central government.

The court said it needed time to consider arguments about whether the 9 November vote breached the country's constitution.

While the court studies the appeals, all campaigning must stop until it makes a ruling.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Civil campaigning group the Catalan National Assembly rallied its supporters for the protest on Tuesday

The Catalan regional government said it would stop publicity but insisted it would try to overturn the suspension.

Francesc Homs, a Catalan government spokesman, said they were "determined" the vote would go ahead.

The Catalan National Assembly, an influential group lobbying for independence, was behind the protests in a rainy Barcelona on Tuesday night.

"Not rain nor snow nor any court will stop us," Carme Forcadell, the group's leader, told reporters. "On November 9 we will vote and we will win."

Scottish flags

Last Saturday, the leader of Catalonia, Artur Mas, signed a decree calling for the referendum.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters the vote was not "compatible with the Spanish constitution". He added: "Nobody and nothing will be allowed to break up Spain."

Support for independence has increased in Catalonia in reaction to Spain's economic crisis.

On 11 September a vast crowd rallied in support of independence in Barcelona.

Spurred on by Scotland's recent independence referendum, many were seen waving the Scottish flag.

On 19 September, the regional parliament voted by 106 to 28 in favour of granting Catalonia's president the power to hold a referendum.

Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants make up approximately 16% of the population of Spain. It is one of Spain's richest and most highly industrialised regions.

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