Barcelona dockworkers refuse to operate police ship sent to thwart referendum
Thousands rally in front of the regional Economy Ministry to protest against the Civil Guard search at the Catalan ministries of Economy, Foreign Affairs, Labour and Government to look for evidence related to the 1-O referendum suspended by the Constitutional Court, in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, Sept. 20, 2017. EFE-EPA/Alejandro Garcia
Barcelona, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- Barcelona dockworkers on Thursday announced that, in order to defend civil rights, they had voted not to operate a cruise ship charted by Spain's interior ministry to house police reinforcements sent to the Catalonia region ahead of a contentious independence referendum.
The Rhapsody cruise ship, which can hold up to 2,500 passengers, was currently sat in Barcelona's port.
"In a general assembly, Barcelona's stevedores have voted not to operate the Rhapsody ship in defense of civil rights," announced the Barcelona dockworker union, OEPB, on its official Twitter.
A total of four cruise ships charted by the Spanish government were sat off the coast of Catalonia to house the extra police officers sent to the affluent northeastern region of Spain.
Sources at Barcelona's port said the stevedores' decision would have repercussions, but pointed out that this union is usually charged with unloading cargo ships rather than cruise ships such as the Rhapsody, which does not require the same process in order to dock and unload.
Political tensions were running high in Catalonia, where the regional separatist forces are pushing for an independence referendum to be held on Oct. 1.
The move has been ruled illegal by the national government and the Spanish courts.
Pro-separatist protests escalated on Wednesday after several senior officials in the regional government were arrested during police raids to confiscate all material related to the referendum.