Spain, Catalonia tussle over who controls the Mossos police

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The Catalan National Assembly's call came hours after Civil Guard police arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials, suspected of coordinating the referendum.

Spanish Police vans are parked next to a ferry ship, rented by the Spanish Interior Ministry to house National Police and Civil Guard police officers, at Barcelona port on September 24, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.

The Catalan government initially said it would refuse the order, though the head of the Catalan regional police, known as the Mossos d'Esquadra, later said he would comply with prosecutors.

A man drives his taxi decorated with an estela flag and publicity supporting the October 1 vote in Barcelona, Spain Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

"The Spanish government claim to be acting in defence of democracy but threats of legal action against hundreds of democratically elected representatives and repressive acts against an elected government, media organisations and citizens are in no way democratic acts", the MSPs say.

So far the state and local police forces have worked together well, but Spanish government officials say in private the Mossos could do more to block the vote and maintain order.

The "Mossos" have been criticized by unions and members of the national police bodies for not cracking down hard enough on the referendum.

Why do officials in Catalonia want to hold a vote? The Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended while it studies its legality.

They also arrested 14 organizers of the vote, including several top Catalan government officials. The ministry says the move is created to enhance coordination.

The control of the Catalan police has become a sensitive topic as the political confrontation between the pro-independence regional government and central authorities has poured onto the streets of Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia. "Students are a very important part of our society, the youngest, so we need to make them conscious of what's happening here", a young man at the demonstration told RT. The remaining students were hold-outs from a group of about 2,000 that gathered in and around the university yesterday.

Spanish media quoted government sources as saying the measure did not mean withdrawing any powers from the Mossos formally, but rather requiring them to submit to a joint coordination operation to stop the Catalan referendum taking place on October 1. Several hundred occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university managers.