BARCELONA – Barcelona dockworkers announced on Thursday 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,” the Barcelona dockworker union, OEPB, announced 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.