Catalonia’s president says there will be peaceful resistance to direct rule by Spain and promises to continue to work to ‘build a free nation’

Madrid claimed direct control of Catalonia for the first time in nearly four decades on Saturday, firing the regional government and police chief after a unilateral declaration of independence. But the deposed Catalan leader immediately vowed there would be peaceful resistance to the takeover.

Hours after the Spanish government formally announced his dismissal, and the replacement of his entire cabinet by counterparts hundreds of miles away, the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, put on an ostentatious display of normality with lunch at a restaurant in the centre of his home city. As he toasted friends with red wine, posed for pictures with supporters in Girona and enjoyed the applause of fellow diners, all broadcast live on national TV, a pre-recorded video message went out promising to continue to work “to build a free nation”.

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