Tuesday October 10, 2017
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Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalan regional police officers, set up barriers near the Catalonian regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017. — AFP picMossos d’Esquadra, Catalan regional police officers, set up barriers near the Catalonian regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017. — AFP picBARCELONA, Oct 10 — Police today blocked public access to a Barcelona park where Catalonia’s parliament is located ahead of an address by the region's leader who may declare independence.

“For security reasons, Parc de la Ciutadella is closed to the public today,” Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, said in a Twitter message.

The goal is to “prevent any situation that would put pressure on parliamentary activity,” a police spokesman said.

During a massive rally in Barcelona on Sunday against independence “a group of people forced their way into the park and threw objects against the parliament building,” he added.

“We are trying to avoid these situations, both on the part of pro-unity protesters as well as by groups of radical separatists,” the spokesman said.

Police set up metal barriers at the entrance to the park and several blue police vans were parked outside of the parliament building.

During a protest held in July 2011 against austerity measures, demonstrators surrounded the parliament building, a former military arsenal, and several regional lawmakers were harassed as they tried to enter.

The head of the regional Catalan government at the time, Artur Mas, was forced to enter the building by helicopter.

Catalonia’s main separatist organisations had called for supporters of Catalan independence to gather in front of the parliament “to support and defend the declaration of independence.”

They will now gather outside of the park instead.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is scheduled to address the parliament at 6:00pm (0000 in Malaysia) after his government pushed ahead with a banned independence referendum on October 1.

Final results from the vote suggest 43 per cent of Catalan voters turned out and 90 per cent of them backed independence — but “No” voters largely boycotted the ballot.

Separatists hope Puigdemont will use his address to unilaterally declare independence for Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people that is about the size of Belgium.

But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government has vowed to block any independence declaration.

It has several tools it can use, including suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy or declaring a state of emergency. — AFP

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