Crowds celebrating in Barcelona square

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Enthusiastic Catalans have packed a central square in Barcelona, ready to celebrate the arrival of a new republic after the region’s lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Catalan government palace, applauding officials and lawmakers as they arrived and entered the building. They called for the Spanish flag to be removed from the top of the 16th-century building.

Many draped themselves with the “Estelada” flag that has become a symbol for many separatists in Catalonia.

But shortly after the regional parliament’s vote to secede, Spain’s Senate approved extraordinary measures allowing the central government to impose direct rule over Catalonia.