Huge demonstration against Catalan independence in Barcelona

Barcelona played Las Palmas behind closed doors on the day of the referendum

Rallies are expected in Spain against Catalonian independence, after Sunday's disputed referendum.

Based on this, the courts and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government have insisted that a decision affecting the unity of Spain can not be taken by just one region, but that all Spaniards need to be consulted.

Spanish politics has been plunged into disarray since Catalonia held an independence referendum a week ago.

All this goes against Spain's Constitutional Court, which has repeatedly said that the country's 1978 constitution does not allow regions to call independence referendums.

Thousands of people gathered Saturday in Madrid to defend the unity of Spain, the Constitution and the rule of law in the face of an independence challenge and a possibility of an imminent unilateral declaration of independence in Catalonia.

More than 90 per cent of the 2.3 million people who voted backed secession, according to Catalan officials.

Residents of Catalonia who oppose secession largely boycotted the vote, which had an estimated turnout of 43%.

"I'm very sad to have seen how the police took people who were only expressing or demonstrating, democratically, their right to vote, and their right to demonstrate on the street in order to achieve a political objective". Close to 900 people were injured as police tried to disperse voters.

Rajoy also called on "moderate" Catalans to "come back" and move away from "extremists, radicals" as well as the Popular Unity Candidacy party (CUP) spearheading the movement.

Mariano Rajoy rejected the possibility of mediation in the conflict with Catalonia and ruled out early elections. "The Spanish state would have no alternative but to intervene with all its might", said Josep Borrell, a Catalan socialist and former president of the European Parliament. This is our flag, and Catalonia's is our flag", the man says, wrapped in the red and yellow Spanish flag. "Viva Espana! I'm very anxious. This will end badly and everyone will lose'.

"The ideal situation would be that I don't have to find drastic solutions, but for that to happen there will have to be some rectifications (by Catalan leaders)", Rajoy said.

That is also the reason that this particular protest is so much smaller that those which have been held over the last few weeks, such as the massive "Si" (Yes) rally that was staged before Catalonia held its controversial independence referendum on October 1.

"You need more than a coup plot to destroy what has been built over 500 years of history", Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian-Spanish novelist, told the crowds. "My family lives in Catalonia".

"It is evident that we will take whatever decision that we are permitted to by law, in view of how things are unfolding", Rajoy told the El Pais newspaper in an interview. Hundreds of people were hurt as police, trying to enforce a Spanish court ban on the vote, attempted to seize ballot boxes and disperse voters.

The stakes are high for the eurozones fourth-largest economy.

European finance ministers, gathering in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday for a regular meeting, could discuss the issue, although it is not formally on the agenda, EU officials said.

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