Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Saturday that he plans to begin removing Catalonia's leaders from office, including President Carles Puigdemont, and take control of the region.
Rajoy, after an emergency meeting of his cabinet in Madrid, said he would invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which allows direct rule in a crisis on any of the country's semi-autonomous regions.
Hours after the announcement, Puigdemont joined demonstrators, estimated about 450,000 by police, in Barcelona. Demonstrators shouted, "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!" and "Rajoy, Rajoy, so you know we are leaving!"
Spain's Senate must approve the measure, which the government has never used.
According to Spanish law, elections must be held within six months of Article 155, but Rajoy said it was necessary for voting to be held sooner.
"What I have faced is something that I have never confronted in my many years in politics, but I didn't choose my interlocutor," Rajoy said.
On Oct. 1, Catalonia held a disputed independence referendum.
Ninety percent of Catalonian's voted in favor of independence, but only 43 percent chose to participate as many anti-independence supporters boycotted the ballot.
Puigdemont and other regional leaders suspended a declaration of independence to allow for talks. He then ignored two deadlines set by the national government
Rajoy said, in removing the leaders, his government was ending "a unilateral process, contrary to the law and searching for confrontation."
"No government of any democratic country can accept that the law be violated, ignored and changed," he said.