BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Catalonia’s bid to hold referendum on independence from Spain (all times local):
Thousands of striking university students are marching through Barcelona to protest what they call an intensifying central government crackdown on Sunday’s planned independence referendum in Catalonia.
The students are demanding the right to vote in the regional ballot on secession, which the Madrid-based national government says is illegal.
Many protesters are carrying pro-independence flags and handmade banners, with slogans such as “we want to vote.” The march Thursday and the strikes were called by Catalonia’s main student unions.
Laia Ferrus, a 20-year-old student of education, said she had chosen to come out of a sense of democratic duty. She said, “It’s no longer about calling for independence. It’s about standing up for our basic principles and rights.”
A media watch dog says pressure by the Catalan government and social media harassment by “hooligans ” of the pro-independence movement is making for a suffocating atmosphere for journalists trying to cover the planned Oct. 1 independence referendum in the northeastern Spanish region.
A report by Reporters Without Borders on Thursday said the regional government’s drive to impose its side of the story in local, Spanish and international media has “crossed the red lines.”
It added that Spanish authorities’ judicial measures against Catalan media to stem propaganda for the referendum have created an atmosphere of extreme tension.
Spokeswoman Pauline Ades-Mevel called on Catalan authorities to come out against the stigmatization of Spanish media, saying it smacked of electoral campaigns such as those of Donald Trump and other “reactionary movements.”
Catalonia’s foreign affairs chief has appealed for support from the European Union before a disputed referendum calling for independence from Spain.
Raul Romeva, speaking to journalists Thursday in Brussels, said that EU institutions need to “understand that this is a big issue.” Romeva spoke a day after Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont accused the EU, in an interview with The Associated Press , of “turning its back” on Catalonia in its conflict with Spain’s central government.
Romeva accused the Spanish government of a “brutal crackdown” on Catalan officials to try to prevent Sunday’s referendum, which Spain considers to be illegal, and that it’s “generated an unprecedented level of shock.”
He said that he doesn’t expect violence, because “it’s not in the Catalan DNA to use violence to solve political problems.”