On Monday morning, Catalan officials showed up at their offices — and, in some cases, were escorted out by police just minutes later.
The Spanish government instituted direct rule over the formerly semi-autonomous region of Catalonia on Friday, which had declared independence from Spain.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the regional government immediately after assuming direct-rule authority. That means Catalan officials have essentially been fired — and prominent secessionist leaders have also been charged with crimes, including sedition.
Josep Rull, a regional minister, tweeted a photo of himself at work despite Spain’s dissolution of his government.
“In the office,” he wrote, “exercising the responsibilities entrusted in us by the people of Catalonia.”
Lucia Benavides reports for NPR from Barcelona:
“The Spanish government has given Catalan officials a few hours to grab their things and leave their posts. … [Rajoy] said there would be snap elections on Dec. 21. In the meantime, central government ministries will take over the Catalan administration. …
“The Catalan president continues to declare himself president and has called for a ‘democratic opposition’ to the Spanish government’s takeover of the region. This morning, Catalan public officials were greeted by clapping from pro-independence supporters waiting outside government buildings.”
The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is among those facing charges. An anonymous Spanish official told The Associated Press that Puigdemont has left the country and traveled to Brussels.
Pro-independence parties say they plan to participate in the Dec. 21 election, Reuters reports, a “tacit admission” that the regional parliament has in fact been dissolved.
The upheaval comes nearly a month after Catalonia, a prosperous region of Spain with its own history, language and culture, held a referendum on independence on Oct. 1. Spain vehemently objected to the vote and attempted to block it, but secessionist leaders defied the police and held the vote anyway.
The result was overwhelmingly in favor of independence, but Catalonia itself is more divided than the vote reflects; many pro-unity voters did not participate in the referendum.
“On Sunday, about 300,000 pro-Spain supporters filled the capital city’s streets — it was one of biggest shows of force by the so-called silent majority,” Benavides reports. “Two people were allegedly injured before and after the protests as ultra-right groups joined the demonstration.”
Now, with two competing governments both claiming to be the democratically elected leadership of Catalonia, confusion is pervasive, as the AP reports:
“As dozens of journalists, curious onlookers and bemused tourists gathered in the square outside the Gothic government palace in central Barcelona, residents expressed confusion about who was actually in charge of Catalonia.
” ‘I don’t know — the Catalan government says they are in charge, but the Spanish government says they are,’ said Cristina Guillen, an employee in a nearby bag shop. ‘So I have no idea, really.
” ‘What I really think is that nobody is in charge right now,’ she said.”
But despite the uncertainty, for everyday citizens “work resumed normally in Catalonia and calm reigned on the streets,” Reuters reported on Monday.