March in Barcelona rejects takeover by Spain

Thousents protesters wave Catalonia independence flags as they take part at a rally against the National Court's decision to imprison civil society leaders, in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The Spanish government moved decisively Saturday to use a previously untapped constitutional power so it can take control of Catalonia and derail the independence movement led by separatist politicians in the prosperous industrial region.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) —Catalan regional authorities are joining hundreds of thousands protesting in Barcelona in a massive show of support for independence. They are also calling for the release of two prominent activists who have been jailed while awaiting possible sedition charges.

The march was initially called by Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural to press for their leaders' release — but it has become a collective rejection of the Spanish government's move to take over Catalonia's regional powers.

The Spanish government wants to sack Catalonia's separatist leaders and call a new election using previously untapped constitutional powers to take control of the prosperous region.

A banner reading "Freedom for Jordi Sanchez! Freedom for Jordi Cuixart!" opened the march. Regional leader Carles Puigdemont is to deliver a televised address later Saturday.

The vice president of the Spanish Senate says a session next Friday will vote on measures proposed by Spain's government to take control of the northeastern Catalonia region.

Conservative senator Pedro Blanco told reporters the governing body of the top legislative chamber is setting up a special commission of 27 senators to make the first assessment of the measures on Tuesday.

Regional Catalan President Carles Puigdemont can make an appeal of the measures by appearing before the commission before Thursday at noon or by sending an envoy.

The special commission is then expected to approve a final proposal that will be taken to the plenary session on Friday for final approval. The ruling Popular Party has an absolute majority in the chamber and is expected to receive wide support from opposition senators for measures to keep Spain unified.

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