efe-epaBarcelona

The president of Spain's Catalonia region said here Saturday night that he would call a session of the regional Parliament to debate and decide a proper response to the measures announced earlier in the day by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Carles Puigdemont made his remarks hours after Rajoy said he would invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, a provision that allows the central government to suspend that northeastern region's autonomy and place it under the direct rule of Madrid starting next weekend.

Spain's Senate would need to approve the measures in a vote scheduled for Friday.

The measures were announced after Rajoy called an emergency Cabinet meeting to weigh his government's response to Catalonia's independence drive.

Rajoy said Puigdemont and his entire Cabinet would be removed from office and that new elections should be held within six months in Catalonia to restore the constitutional order in that region, where authorities pushed through with a banned independence referendum on Oct. 1.

Puigdemont responded by saying Saturday night he would call a session of the regional Parliament - likely before Friday - to respond to the attempt to "liquidate" Catalan autonomy.

"We cannot accept this attack," Puigdemont said, adding that Spain was seeking to humiliate Catalonia.

He called on people to come together to defend Catalonia's institutions and show the fortitude necessary to assert their aspirations.

Hundreds of thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Barcelona in a demonstration led by Puigdemont to protest the measures announced by Rajoy and to demand freedom for arrested leaders of pro-independence groups.

The Catalonia region, home to some 7.5 million people, held an independence referendum on Oct. 1 that had been ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish courts.

Just over 2 million people voted to secede from Spain in the plebiscite, according to independence leaders; the process was boycotted by many in Catalonia who are against secession.

On Oct. 10, Puigdemont declared Catalonia an independent state, though he immediately suspended the declaration in order to hold talks with Madrid.

The Spanish government has refused to engage in dialogue with officials in Catalonia over their independence drive.

Puigdemont said the measures outlined Saturday by Spain's government amounted to the worse attack suffered by Catalonia since Gen. Francisco Franco's 1939-1975 dictatorship, which banned the use of the Catalan language in public spaces.

Article 155 of Spain's charter allows the central government to assume the powers of a region when its authorities breach the law.