Posted: Sep. 22, 2017 8:00 am Updated: Sep.
The Mossos, who are normally controlled by the Catalan government, have been accused by Madrid of not sufficiently cracking down on preparations for the independence vote, which Spain's Constitutional Court has ruled illegal.
The measure came amid rising tension between Spanish and Catalan authorities over the planned October 1 ballot.
The Spanish government is headed for a showdown with regional police in Catalonia amid signs the 17,000-strong force isn't fully committed to upholding a court ban sought by Madrid on a planned referendum on independence. They have also said the Catalan assembly would declare independence within 48 hours of a "yes" vote. Officials in Madrid have been quietly hiring cruise ships to moor in the Port of Barcelona as temporary housing as they amass what El Correo newspaper said may be more than 16,000 riot police and other security officers before the planned poll.
The protesters gathered outside the High Court demanding that the leaders be freed, while a Catalan government spokesman said eight of the 14 people arrested had been released.
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"We denounce the attempt by the state to intervene in the police forces of Catalonia", Joaquim Forn, the head of Catalonia's interior department and the civilian head of the Catalan police, said Saturday, reading a statement on regional television.
The protest in the northeastern Catalan town of Hospitalet de Llobregat was an extension of another started Thursday outside the Catalan judiciary headquarters in nearby Barcelona that attracted thousands.
The 40,000 demonstrators answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against Wednesday's surprise police crackdown.
"The political reform of 1978 only legalized Francoism and disguised it as democracy", he said. They carried pro-independence flags and banners supporting the ballot.
Hundreds entered the main building of Barcelona University and occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university managers. Student union representatives urged the protesters to remain over the weekend. It represents 20 percent of Spain's €1.1 trillion ($1.32 trillion) economy. The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters.