The King of Spain is to address the nation after thousands of people took to the streets in Catalonia to vent their fury over the violent police crackdown on Sunday’s contested independence referendum.
King Felipe will make a televised statement Tuesday at 9 p.m. local time, a spokesman for the royal household told CNN.
His decision to intervene in the crisis came as tens of thousands of people gathered in Barcelona, angered by the harsh treatment meted out by national forces who tried to prevent the banned vote from taking place. Many demonstrated in front of the Barcelona headquarters of the Spanish national police.
Shops were closed, universities halted classes and transport companies ran reduced services as supporters of Catalonia’s bid for independence from Spain attempted to maintain the momentum from Sunday’s vote.
Facing Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades,Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held talks with opposition parties in Madrid. Spanish authorities have ordered members of the Guardia Civil, the national security force deployed to Catalonia to block the referendum, to remain on standby in the region for the next week.
Protesters gathering in Barcelona said they were motivated by fury at Sunday’s violent crackdown — the Catalan health ministry said 893 people were injured as riot police raided polling stations, dragged away voters and fired rubber bullets.
Officers from the Guardia Civil and the Catalan police force stood guard outside the local headquarters of the Spanish government in Barcelona, where hundreds of firefighters gathered. Other groups of protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the national police, shouting “Spanish police get out!”.
The Catalan government says it earned the right to split from Spain, claiming 90% of those who voted in Sunday’s poll were in favour of independence. But the result was not decisive: turnout was low, at around 42%. Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont stopped short of declaring independence for Catalonia Monday. According to the referendum law passed by the Catalan Parliament — and declared illegal by Spain’s top court — authorities have 48 hours after the result to declare a split. Catalan authorities have not yet presented a final result to the Parliament in Barcelona.
Puigdemont has called for international mediation to resolve the crisis.