Spanish police made a total of 16 arrests in Catalonia on Wednesday in a day-long operation that led to the detention of two mayors, a photojournalist and a number of pro-independence activists, including the nephew of president Quim Torra. According to the High Court of Justice of Catalonia, they are police arrests, not ordered by a judge.

Legal representatives of five people arrested in the afternoon said the police operation was related to public disorder offenses, such as the blocking of the high-speed train line by protesters on the anniversary of the October 1 independence referendum.

The same sources said the detained photojournalist is Carles Palacio, who covered the morning arrests outside a police station, and that president Quim Torra’s nephew, who is an activist for the far-left CUP party, was among the five people arrested later in the day.

Analysts coincide that the new wave of arrests is a warning from the Spanish police before the referendum trial and the expected protests ans mobilisations in Catalonia begin.

Two mayors detained

The day began with the arrests of two mayors from the pro-independence CUP party, in the northern region of Girona. Nine activists from the CDR protest group were also temporarily detained, all of them for public disorder offenses.

All of the people arrested, including the two mayors, were later released to wait for the court to summon them to answer public disorder charges. Six other people also wanted by the police could not be located.

Ignasi Sabater, mayor of Verges, was one of the local officials arrested, with the other being the head of the Celrà council, Dani Cornellà. Shortly afterwards, Sabater’s lawyer, Benet Salellas, called the detentions “unjustified and disproportionate” and claimed the arrests were related to a demonstration held in Girona on December 6, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution.

Speak Spanish or stay out

Salellas also stated that on learning what had occurred he went to the Spanish police station in Girona were the mayors were being held, but was not allowed in because he spoke in Catalan. “I was told that until I speak Spanish, I would not be let in” he told while  waiting to speak with the manager of the police station.

“It is an attack on multilinguism and, in this case, also the right to a defense” added Salellas.

Support for arrested officials

On hearing of their arrests, the Catalan parliament speaker showed his support for the detained pro-independence mayors: “We hope they are immediately released. Stop with the repression, enough with criminalizing public protest” he said.

“The arrests seem absolutely disproportionate, we hope they are promptly released, and we demand maximum transparency about this operation by the Spanish police,” added the government vice president, Pere Aragonès.

Protest in parliament

Meanwhile, the JxCAT, ERC and CUP pro-independence parties, along with the left-wing Catalunya en Comú-Podem, announced that they would abandon the parliamentary committees convened for Wednesday morning to protest the detentions.

CUP MP Maria Sirvent said the Spanish police “continues to act in the same way it did under the Franco regime,” stating “they will not pass, we will keep organizing, fighting, and resisting this offensive by those who are allergic to democracy.”

Carlos Carrizosa, the spokesperson for the unionist Ciutadans party, accused MPs who left the committees of being “lazy” and not earning their salary. “They want to get paid without going to work, and today they found the perfect excuse,” he said.

The Catalan Socialists also complained about the pro-independence parties not attending the parliamentary committees in protest over the arrest of the two mayors. “The chamber has experienced a day of paralysis,” said MP Pol Gibert.

In the evening, there were also some protests in the streets over these arrests throughout Catalonia.