BARCELONA, Spain — King Felipe VI of Spain stepped forcefully into the political crisis over Catalonia on Tuesday, accusing the region’s separatist leaders of “inadmissible disloyalty” and of creating “a situation of extreme gravity” that threatened the country’s constitution and unity.
A protest outside the national police headquarters during a general strike in Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday.
Credit Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
The monarch’s televised address came at the close of a daylong general strike in Catalonia, as well as road blockades and a mass rally in downtown Barcelona, to protest Sunday’s police crackdown on voters as they took part in an independence referendum that had been declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court.
The Catalan authorities “have put themselves completely on the sidelines of the law and democracy,” Felipe said. “With their irresponsible conduct, they can even put at risk the economic and social stability of Catalonia and the whole of Spain.”
Earlier in the day, protesters blocked dozens of roads across Catalonia. Farmers used their tractors to cut off highways, and demonstrators shut down some of the main roads in Barcelona. The strike, which was backed by the regional government of Catalonia, also brought the subway system and bus network to a standstill during most of the working day.
The protests took place amid high tensions and widespread uncertainty after the highly disputed referendum, which was carried out in defiance of the central government in Madrid and which touched off clashes between the Spanish police and citizens who were trying to cast ballots.
Many private sector companies remained opened for business, in part because Spain’s two main labor unions, which have argued that any such protest must be decided and coordinated nationwide, called on their Catalan members not to take part.
Firefighters joined protests outside the Spanish government delegation in Barcelona on Tuesday. Credit Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
A vigil outside a school on Tuesday that was used as a polling station in the referendum and that was subsequently raided.Credit David Ramos/Getty Images The street tensions and mounting pressure on the security forces came after Spanish police officials complained that the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s autonomous police force, had failed to follow Madrid’s orders to close polling stations. Catalan television later showed Mossos officers and Catalan firefighters confronting the national police. At Tuesday’s rally in Barcelona, firefighters received an ovation from the crowd, amid chants of “more firemen, less policemen.” The standoff is also escalating tensions between the central and regional governments. Mr. Puigdemont has said that the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is returning Spain to the authoritarianism of the former dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco. At Tuesday’s Barcelona rally, many demonstrators held signs that mentioned the darkest chapters in Spanish history, including its civil war in the 1930s. Chloé Parra, 15, held a poster that read “we’re the grandchildren of those that you didn’t manage to kill On Tuesday, Rafael Hernando, the parliamentary spokesman for Mr. Rajoy’s governing Popular Party, said the Catalan strike was “clearly political, with Nazi” connotations in terms of indoctrinating Catalans into following a separatist ideology. Mr. Hernando told Spanish national radio that radical separatist politicians “are hoping to provoke deaths in Catalonia.”