Spanish crackdown provokes Catalans to seek independence: Pundit

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Spain will deploy police reinforcements to Catalonia if an independence referendum pledged by Catalan officials but opposed by the national government goes ahead, officials have said.

The ministry said they would back up Catalonia's separate police force, called Mossos d'Esquadra, which would remain in charge.

"We are not accepting that the Spanish Interior Ministry assumes command over the Mossos", Catalan Interior Minister Joaquim Forn tweeted.

The Catalan government earlier this week accused the Spanish authorities of effectively taking over its administration after state police raided its offices and arrested officials, and the finance ministry took control of the local finance department. "We will be here, peacefully but present, until all of the arrested walk out free", Assembly president Jordi Sanchez said.

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The "Mossos" - as they are often referred to in Catalonia - are the largest police force in the northeastern region.

The central government is waging myriad legal battles to halt the October 1 referendum called by the pro-independence coalition ruling Catalonia, in northeastern Spain.

Catalonia's regional government said new measures including a ban on police time off were over the top and meant to create a false impression of crisis.

Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont issued a statement late Thursday saying the referendum would be held "because we had prepared some plans to protect ourselves from any eventuality and guarantee the vote".

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Madrid's Constitutional Court says the vote is illegal but Catalan leaders are determined to hold it.

Several hundred students have spent the night inside a Barcelona university to protest the government's efforts to stop a referendum over Catalonia's secession from Spain, local media reported today. "Students are a very important part of our society, the youngest, so we need to make them conscious of what's happening here", a young man at the demonstration told RT.

"We are showing that, as students, we have a part to play".

Police arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials suspected of coordinating the referendum, and seized 10 million ballot papers.

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Catalonia's political leaders have channeled their region's sense of identity separateness in the direction of independence in recent years, capitalizing on the populist appeal to economic nationalism in arguing that their disproportionate contribution to the national budget is unjust and therefore legitimate grounds for splitting from Spain.

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