Acting on court orders, the Spanish state police has already raided the regional government offices, arrested temporarily several senior Catalan officials accused of organizing the referendum and seized ballot papers, ballot boxes, voting lists and electoral material and literature.
The government of Catalonia, a wealthy region in northeastern Spain, has called a referendum on independence for October 1, triggering a constitutional crisis in the country.
An Interior Ministry statement said the extra police would provide backing for the Catalan regional police, who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.
This was after the police went from building to building, raiding printers, newspaper offices, and private delivery companies, searching for election materials, confiscating vote record forms, ballot boxes, and nearly ten million ballot papers, as well as and campaign leaflets.
Authorities have had to billet some of the new officers in three ferries rented by the Spanish government and moored in the harbors of Barcelona and Tarragona because of both a shortage of temporary housing and to avoid clashes between protesters and police forces.
The Catalan National Assembly civic group has called for the protests to continue until the near dozen officials detained Wednesday are released. A statement said the six declined to testify.
Protesters gathered in their thousands yesterday outside Catalonia’s Economy Ministry in Barcelona to demand the release of officials arrested for planning an independence vote deemed illegal by Madrid. Franco imprisoned, tortured and executed tens of thousands of Catalan people.
They carried pro-independence flags and banners supporting the ballot.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose opposition to the referendum has the support of the main opposition Socialist party, has warned Catalan leaders of “greater harm” if they don’t call off the referendum bid.
The letter added: “Legal action against the Catalan government, several hundred local mayors and others perceived to be facilitating the referendum is no way for a democratic European state to act against its own people”.
Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s 1.1 trillion-euro (£970 billion) economy and enjoys wide self-government.
The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters.
Polls show that support for secession in Catalonia, a prosperous region in northeastern Spain, rose to more than half of its 7.5 million residents at the height of the financial crisis that began in 2008.