Hundreds of thousands protest over Spanish government's Catalonia decision

Catalan's regional leader criticised the Spanish government's decision as an "attack on democracy"

Hundreds of thousands protest over Spanish government's Catalonia decision

Picture by: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans have demonstrated in Barcelona after Spain's government said it would begin the process to take away some of the region's autonomy.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced yesterday that the area's leaders would be dismissed, and suggested fresh elections would be held in the region within 6 months.

It comes in the wake of a disputed independence referendum.

It's estimated that up to 450,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona in the wake of yesterday's announcement, calling for independence and freedom.

Regional leader Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile, said his people will not accept the "illegal" measures.

He criticised the Spanish government's decision as an "attack on democracy", suggesting it was the worst attack on the region's institutions since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

In a televised address he also addressed the people of Europe, saying in English: "If European foundational values are at risk in Catalonia, they will also be at risk in Europe - democratically deciding the future of Europe is not a crime.

"We do what we do, because we believe in a democratic and peaceful Europe - the Europe of the shelter of fundamental rights that should protect each and every one of us."

Yesterday, Mr Rajoy's cabinet agreed it would take the unprecedented move to seek permission from the senate to invoke Article 155.

The article allows it to intervene if one of the country's 17 autonomous regions acts in a way that is "seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain".

Speaking after his meeting with ministers, Mr Rajoy suggested: "It was not our wish, not our intention... it never was - and I think [the public] knows that."

However, he added that no government can accept 'disregard for the law'.

While around 90% of Catalans who voted backed breaking away from Spain in this month's controversial referendum, only four in 10 potential voters cast their ballots