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  • A man holds up a scarf which reads

    A man holds up a scarf which reads 'Catalonia' at the rally in Barcelona, Spain, September 16, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Recent polls showed 70 percent of the region's electorate want the chance to vote on their independence.

“We will vote, we will vote!” protesters shouted in Catalan throughout the streets of Barcelona. They turned out to show their support for over 700 Catalonian mayors threatened with arrest for supporting the October 1 independence referendum.

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Catalonia Begins Independence Campaign as Spanish Government Threatens Crackdown

The Spanish government has declared the referendum, the campaign, and any events in support of the vote, illegal.

The mayors met Catalonia's regional head Carles Puigdemont in a show of defiance at the rally.

On Wednesday, Spanish prosecutors summoned for questioning more than 700 mayors who had said they would allow municipal spaces to be used for voting. 

Puigdemont won the election in 2015 on a separatist platform and leads the referendum campaign.

He told the crowds, "We stand firm against threats, censorship and prosecution and repeat this: we want to be a free country."

The nationalist protests are not only a show of solidarity with Catalonia's mayors, but a push back on several Spanish government attempts to censure the referendum that Catalan lawmakers announced on September 6. 

Polls in July showed that 70 percent of Catalans want the chance to vote on their independence.

In response, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, said, "I say this both calmly and firmly: there will be no referendum, it won't happen.”

The separatist agenda originates with Spain ceding the region in 1714 and usurping institutional powers, as well as from economic changes in the region over the past decade.

Catalonia’s unemployment rate rose to 19 percent in 2008. The region was allocated 16 percent of the national budget in 2003 and this was reduced to 9.5 percent in 2015, meanwhile it contributes almost 19 percent to the national GDP.   

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