Protesters gather in Barcelona for a second day protest

Catalonia’s vice-president admitted Thursday that plans to hold an outlawed independence referendum had been dealt a major blow by a crackdown the previous day, as people gathered in Barcelona for a second day of protests. Thousands took to the streets of the Mediterranean seaside city on Wednesday after police detained key members of the team organizing the vote slated for October 1 in a region deeply divided over independence.

Authorities seized nearly 10 million ballots destined for the vote, seriously damaging separatist plans for a referendum with a semblance of legitimacy, even if it was never going to be recognized by Madrid or abroad.

After a day-long protest that lasted well into the night, several thousand independence supporters gathered again Thursday in front of the high court in what influential separatist organizations said would be a “permanent mobilization” until the officials are freed.

Oriol Junqueras, the region’s vice-president whose deputy was among those arrested, told Catalonia’s television that the operation meant “the rules of the game have been changed.”

“The circumstances today are different because a significant part of our team, half of the economics team, has been arrested,” he said. “That (the referendum) cannot be held in the circumstances that we wanted is obvious,” he said, adding he was convinced the “majority” of Catalans wanted to vote.

Police have also seized over 45,000 notifications destined for Catalans selected to staff polling stations, threatened to arrest mayors who facilitate the vote if they do not comply with a criminal probe and tightened control over the region’s finances.

The confiscation of millions of ballot papers on Wednesday delivered an added blow to referendum plans.

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