The October 1st Referendum was set in motion after the Catalan Parliament held a vote on and passed the Law of Transitory Legality which allows for a binding vote (a simple Yes or No) on Catalan independence and outlines a transitory legal structure for the creation of a Catalan state in the event that the Yes votes win the referendum with a simple majority. In recent years there has been growing support for independence among Catalans and the Law of Transitory Legality was able to pass in the Catalan Parliament due to the majority that pro-independence parties hold.
The new law was sent to the Spanish courts and a judge declared that it was unconstitutional (per the current Spanish Constitution of 1978, created shortly after the death of Franco) and suspended the referendum. Spanish President Mariano Rajoy announced that the vote would not take place and accused the Catalan Government of deepening the divide between Spain and Catalonia and threatening the rights of the Catalans.
However the Catalan Government ignored the Spanish court’s order to halt the vote and continued ahead with plans for the October 1st Referendum. There has been a massive show of support for the vote with hundreds of thousands of people rallying in the streets on September 11th, Catalonia’s National Day. The Spanish government has responded with a brutal crackdown arresting Catalan politicians, raiding government offices as well as local print shops, confiscating ballots and threatening legal action against regional and local politicians who help carry out the referendum. The Catalan regional autonomous government has also been suspended.
According to Reuters Spain has also sent 4000 state police (Guardia Civil) in addition to the 5000 already based in Catalonia to ensure that the vote does not happen. There are also 17,000 local police (Mossos d’Esquadra) in Catalonia whose loyalties are torn between Catalan and Spanish governments according to NBC.
The Catalan people have begun to occupy local schools that will serve as voting precincts and plan to hold events and camp out there overnight to ensure that the Spanish police are unable to close them. Ara newspaper reported that there have already been visits by the local police who have advised the groups occupying the schools that the must be out by 6am, but in some cases stating that if there were many people still inside the police would not act. In addition 400 local firefighters in Catalonia have announced that they will mobilize and help ensure that people are able to vote.
Though tensions have been rising the Catalan people have maintained a peaceful and civil but determined approach to defending their right to vote and will hold their independence referendum today.