Catalan Mayors defy courts ahead of referendum

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Catalan pro-freedom leaders and supporters of the region's right to hold a referendum on independence from Spain have held a rally backing more than 700 mayors facing the threat of arrest, the BBC reported today.

Political tensions in Spain are increasing as the proposed voting date of October 1 nears.

More than two-thirds of the autonomous region's mayors have said they will facilitate the vote and allow municipal buildings to be used, in violation of Madrid's orders.

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Hundreds of mayors stood Saturday next to regional President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau in Barcelona, the capital and main city in the region.

"We will not be intimidated".

Catalonia is sharply divided, with a government poll in July finding that 41.1 percent of people were for and 49.4 percent against independence, although the vast majority agree to holding a referendum to decide the matter. "Eighty percent of the Catalan citizenship is in favor of the referendum of self-determination to ask Catalans whether or not they want independence", Anna Arque from the EU Partnership for Independence told RT. It is unclear what arrangement was reached.

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Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo says officials are not ruling anything out in reaction to the planned Catalonian referendum on independence, saying the government is prepared to take "exceptional measures" to stop the vote.

In response, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, said, "I say this both calmly and firmly: there will be no referendum, it won't happen".

Spanish police on Saturday seized printing materials meant to support and promote the referendum near Barcelona. Catalonia's top court has also warned seven newspapers against publishing campaign material.

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The nationalist protests are not only a show of solidarity with Catalonia's mayors, but a push back on several Spanish government attempts to censure the referendum that Catalan lawmakers announced on September 6. Taxes, foreign affairs, defense and infrastructures are in the hands of Spain's central authorities.

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