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Thousands of police officers deployed in Catalonia ahead of general election

Following recent street disturbances by radical independence activists, the authorities are sending reinforcements to guarantee security at polling stations on Sunday

catalonia spain
Police officers at street protests in Barcelona last month. Europa Press
Madrid / Barcelona

Thousands of law enforcement officers will be deployed across Catalonia on Sunday to guarantee security at a repeat general election that polls suggest could prove as inconclusive as the previous one, held on April 28 of this year.

The authorities want to prevent any potential street disturbances such as the ones that followed the Supreme Court’s recent sentencing of nine secessionist leaders to prison terms for their role in the 2017 failed Catalan independence drive. Protests were also staged in Barcelona on Monday during a visit by the Spanish royal family to the Catalan capital for an award ceremony.

Catalan separatists burnt pictures of the Spanish king during the latter's visit to Barcelona on Monday.
Catalan separatists burnt pictures of the Spanish king during the latter's visit to Barcelona on Monday. EFE

Sources familiar with the operation said that up to 2,500 officers of the National Police and 2,000 members of the Civil Guard will patrol the streets to impede any acts of violence on election day.

Official sources at the Spanish Interior Ministry reduced the overall figure to around 3,000. But sources at the Barcelona-based Security Coordination Center (CECOR), where all three police agencies are represented, have confirmed it will be closer to 4,500.

Another 8,000 members of the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, will secure polling stations across the northeastern region. Sources at the Catalan law-enforcement agency said that patrol officers will be stationed at each polling station in municipalities with a population of over 4,000, stretching the force’s operational capability to the limit.

Authorities have estimated the damage of the recent disturbances at €2.5 million.
Authorities have estimated the damage of the recent disturbances at €2.5 million.

The decision to send reinforcements to the region comes after the recent episode of week-long street clashes between violent independence activists and riot police. Around 600 people were injured, 200 protesters were arrested, and 28 placed in custody. Barcelona authorities have estimated the damage at over €2.5 million.

Officers have also been asked to be operational on Saturday, the “day of reflection” that precedes election day according to Spanish legislation. A leaderless, social-media based separatist group that calls itself Democratic Tsunami – already under investigation by the Spanish courts for its alleged role in the street disturbances – has urged sympathizers to participate in activities aimed at “disobeying the Electoral Board.” These include a demonstration in downtown Barcelona at 4pm on Saturday. Democratic Tsunami has also defended “the exercise of the right to vote” and stated that it will not seek to hinder voting on election day.

English version by Susana Urra.

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