Catalan independence campaigners have held rallies across the region, distributing 1m ballot papers a week before people are due to vote in a sovereignty referendum that the Spanish government has vowed to stop.
Thousands of people congregated in town squares around Catalonia on Sunday to show their support for the vote as tensions between the pro-independence regional government and the Spanish state continued to rise.
Speaking at a rally in Barcelona, the president of the independence group Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, said: “Here are the packs of ballots that we ask you to hand out across Catalonia.”
Carme Forcadell, the speaker of the regional parliament, told a Barcelona crowd: “I ask you to go out and vote! Vote for the future of Catalonia!”.
The distribution of voting slips comes days after Spanish Guardia Civil officers raided regional government buildings, arrested 14 senior Catalan officials and seized almost 10m ballot papers.
The Spanish government has also drafted in thousands more police officers and tightened its control over the region’s funding, while the constitutional court has announced that 24 referendum organisers will be fined between €6,000 and €12,000 (£5,300-£10,600) a day until they abandon preparations for the vote.
The raids and arrests brought 40,000 people on to the streets of Barcelona in protest on Wednesday night. Although the demonstrations were largely peaceful, there were scuffles and two Guardia Civil vehicles were attacked. A chief prosecutor later asked the national court to consider investigating the demonstrators for sedition.
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has repeatedly said that the 1 October referendum – which the central government insists is illegal and unconstitutional – will not take place, and the legislation underpinning the vote has already been suspended by Spain’s constitutional court.
However, the Catalan regional president, Carles Puigdemont, has refused to back down and has said the Spanish government is acting “beyond the limits of a respectable democracy”.
On Saturday, the Catalan government accused Madrid of trying to take control of the region’s police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, after the Spanish interior ministry said it would coordinate the policing operations intended to prevent the referendum.
A spokesman for the ministry told the Associated Press that Catalonia’s chief prosecutor had informed the heads of the national police, the Guardia Civil and the Mossos that the ministry would oversee the operation “in light of what happened last week”.
The ministry denied suggestions that it was taking command of the Mossos, with an official telling AFP the move was “simply to agree on a means of coordination”.
But Joaquim Forn, the Catalan interior minister and the civilian head of the Mossos, called the measure unacceptable, adding: “We denounce the attempt by the state to intervene in the police forces of Catalonia.”
The Mossos tweeted a statement, which read: “We’ll continue working as we have until now. We will exercise our powers to guarantee security and public order and be at the service of citizens.”