Jesús Jurado of Podemos (third right) was among protesters when Mariano Rajoy arrived. | Pilar Pellicer

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David Abril, a co-parliamentary spokesperson for Més, Jesús Jurado, the Podemos second vice-president of the Council of Majorca, and Jaume Mateu, president of the Obra Cultural Balear, were among those protesting when Prime Minister Rajoy arrived for the conference of Partido Popular regional leaders yesterday.

National Police kept the demonstrators (no more than around 200) well away from the entrance to the Gran Meliá Victoria Hotel where the conference was taking place. They were making their feelings known about the government's handling of the Catalonia referendum.

Abril, who was asked to show ID by the police, complained about the sizable police presence, adding that it was logical for people to express their views. "We can't go back forty years," said Abril. "The rights of citizens are being drawn into question. That the PP comes here to Palma to defend the unity of Spain simply seems to me to be a provocation."

Inside the hotel, Rajoy said that continuing with the plan to hold the referendum was only causing "ridiculous and unnecessary tension". He insisted that the Catalonian government should acknowledge that the referendum will not go ahead.

"The most sensible, the most reasonable, the most democratic way is to stop. Say that that there will be no referendum, as they know that there will not be. No democracy in the world could accept the Constitution and national sovereignty being liquidated. The organisers know this; they knew it a long time ago. But they are still digging in their heels and they are responsible for what is happening."

Among other things, Rajoy observed, there was the fact that members of the electoral commission had resigned in order not to have to pay fines imposed on them. Without the commission, "there can be no referendum". "There may be something else but not that referendum."

The prime minister demanded that the Catalonian government puts an end to the harassment of mayors and to demonstrations to "intimidate judges". It must also stop the "coercion of the media that doesn't think like them" as well as the manipulation which even extends to children. He stated that Spanish democracy covers all citizens, including those who want independence. "But what is not covered is crime, disobedience and abuse: the red line that neither Spain nor any other country can tolerate."