By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Large crowds of protesters have taken to the streets in Barcelona after the Spanish prime minister announced plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders and take control of the separatist region.
Barcelona police said that some 450,000 people had joined a protest in the regional capital on October 21, many of them chanting “freedom” and “independence” and waving Catalonia’s separatist flag.
Earlier in the day, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy outlined plans to remove Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his regional executive, who sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades by holding a disputed independence referendum on October 1.
Spain’s Supreme Court had declared the referendum illegal.
Under the proposed measures, Madrid could take direct control over Catalonia’s ministries and police force, replace its public media chiefs and call for fresh elections.
The measures must now be approved by Spain’s Senate in the next few days.
Puigdemont said the Spanish government’s measures are “incompatible with a democratic attitude and do not respect the rule of law.”
In a televised address late on October 21, Puigdemont called on the Catalan parliament to meet over the crisis.
The speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, called Madrid’s plans a “de facto coup d’etat.”