The Catalan Parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, prompting the central government to impose direct rule just 40 minutes later.
The motion was carried by 70 votes to 10, with two abstentions.
But before the vote, opposition parties stormed out of parliament in protest – with pro-independence MPs draping their empty seats with Catalan flags.
In response, the Spanish government in Madrid has invoked article 155 of the country’s constitution, dismantling Catalonia’s autonomy.
Carles Puigemont, who has already sent his family over the border for their own safety, may now face arrest for sedition.
Pro-independence groups have vowed a campaign of civil disobedience to protect public buildings on the event of a crackdown by Madrid, which may involve the feared national riot police and even the army.
Thousands of Catalans gathered outside the parliament building and cheered and danced after the motion passed.
The Spanish prime minister wrote on Twitter immediately after the vote: ‘I ask all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia.’