Spain Just Made History -- Twice. Here's What Went Down, Hour By Hour

The government voted to strip Catalonia of its autonomy less than an hour after the region declared independence.

In a shockingly rapid sequence of events, history was made twice over in Spain on Friday. In the space of less than an hour, the Catalan regional Parliament in Barcelona declared its independence from Spain, and then Spain’s Parliament in Madrid voted to take control of Catalonia.

The historic turn of events arose from a decades-long national debate in Spain surrounding Catalan independence, which reached an initial peak earlier this month when Catalan residents voted to declare independence from Spain in a referendum that Spain’s government deemed illegitimate.

After weeks of political maneuvering, and despite widespread opposition outside of Catalonia, the pro-independence camp in the region prevailed in voting for autonomy Friday. But the victory was short-lived, as the Spanish government quickly moved to seize control of the region.

Immediately after Friday’s independence declaration, thousands of people cheered in the streets of Barcelona, Reuters reported. Some were shouting “liberty” in Catalan. But support for independence is far from unanimous throughout the region. While the Oct. 1 referendum ultimately supported independence, only 43 percent of Catalan voters showed up at the ballot box, as many Catalans who opposed independence abstained.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau took to Facebook, in English, on Friday to criticize both the Spanish central government and the Catalan regional government for the extreme measures they took that day.

“There’s always time to turn to dialogue,” the Barcelona mayor wrote. “We’re a majority, in Catalonia and in Spain, who want ... dialogue, common sense and an agreed solution to take hold.”

Take a look at the dramatic sequence of events throughout the day:

People celebrate in Barcelona after the Catalan regional Parliament there voted for independence from Spain on Friday.
People celebrate in Barcelona after the Catalan regional Parliament there voted for independence from Spain on Friday.
Yves Herman / Reuters
  • Just after 10 a.m., Madrid ― Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy opens a debate in the Senate, reports HuffPost Spain. In a fiery speech, he urges lawmakers to apply Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which would allow the government to strip Catalonia of its autonomy.

  • 11 a.m., Madrid ― Lawmakers across the political spectrum take to the Senate floor to debate the measure. While representatives of Rajoy’s People’s Party cheer in favor of the push for Article 155, representatives of the left-wing Podemos party sharply criticized the move.

  • Just before noon, BarcelonaCatalan leader Carles Puigdemont arrives at the regional Parliament with his wife ahead of the independence vote.

  • Around 2 p.m., Madrid ― The debate in the Senate heats up: “You’re ripping Spain apart more than anyone,” Podemos’ Ramon Espinar says as he takes the Senate floor.

  • Just before 3:30 p.m., Barcelona ― The Catalan Parliament votes to declare independence from Spain. After more than 50 opposition lawmakers leave the chamber in protest, 70 Catalan deputies vote in favor of independence, 10 vote to oppose and two submit blank ballots. Thousands of independence supporters standing in the streets of the Catalan city cheer at the announcement. “I am emotional because Catalonia has struggled for 40 years to be independent, and finally I can see it,” 61-year-old Montserrat Rectoret, in the crowds in Barcelona on Friday, told Reuters. Spanish shares and bonds are sold off, reports Reuters, reflecting international business concerns over the political turmoil.

  • 3:40 p.m., Madrid ― Drama in the Senate. A senator with PDeCAT, the pro-independence Catalan party, takes to the Senate floor to say: “Now we are an independent republic.” Minutes later, Clara San Damián, from the Spanish government’s People’s Party, responds: “Catalonia is and will continue to be Spain.”

  • 4 p.m., Madrid ― Prime Minister Rajoy arrives in the Senate for the vote on Article 155. Ten minutes later, the Spanish government votes in favor, 214-47 with one abstention, allowing Spain’s central government to implement direct rule over Catalonia. The move is a first in the country’s history. Government leaders in the United States, Britain and the European Union have all dismissed Catalonia’s independence declaration and stated support for the Spanish government. “Catalonia is an integral part of Spain,” said the U.S. State Department in a statement Friday. “The United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united.”

  • 8:30 p.m., Madrid ― The Spanish government makes it first moves toward imposing direct rule in Catalonia. In a televised address, Rajoy announces the government has fired Catalonia’s president and dismissed its Parliament. New elections in the region are set for Dec. 21. Rajoy also says he will take the Catalan declaration of independence to Spain’s top constitutional court, which earlier this month had ruled against Catalan independence by declaring its Oct. 1 referendum illegal.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a statement after an extraordinary Cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid on Friday.
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a statement after an extraordinary Cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid on Friday.
Susana Vera / Reuters

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