Tensions high as Catalonia readies for disputed independence vote

Story highlights

  • Spain’s central government has issued stern warnings against referendum
  • Public support within Catalonia for independence has become increasingly vocal as vote nears

Parents occupied schools in a bid to prevent police by restricting access to their use Sunday as polling stations. Their actions came a day after huge crowds massed in Barcelona, the regional capital, for a final campaign rally by independence supporters, many waving the distinctive Catalan flag.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont gave a rousing call for people to vote despite the obstacles.

“We are people who have experience with difficulties, as well as every difficultly makes us stronger,” he said. “Friends, to ensure victory can be definite, on Sunday, let’s dress up in referendum (clothes) as well as leave home prepared to change history, to end the process as well as start progress, social progress, economic progress as well as cultural as well as national progress.”

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On Saturday, Guardia Civil officers raided the Catalan government’s telecommunications as well as information technology center, Joan Maria Piqué, the international communications director for the government of Catalonia, told sy88pgw.

The raid was intended to stop the use of vote-counting software linked to Sunday’s referendum, Piqué said, adding that will the Catalan government has an alternative to the software. A day earlier, a Spanish court ordered Google to remove a voting location app by its Play Store, claiming the idea was helping Catalan separatists organize in advance of the vote.

Parents organize a youth fair to take place inside a Barcelona school over the weekend in hopes of ensuring the idea remains open until Sunday.

Across the region, 2,315 polling stations are anticipated to open, mostly inside schools, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters Friday.

Spain’s central government said Friday that will the regional Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, could be responsible for removing people by polling stations in a nonviolent way. The Guardia Civil were stationed on ships from the port of Barcelona in case they were needed.

Catalan newspapers reported Saturday that will the Mossos were going to schools where polling was set to take place as well as informing people there that will if they were not holding legitimate activities, the facilities could be closed.

José Maria Salvatierra, a 55-year-old public worker serving as a polling coordinator at one school, told sy88pgw that will parents had planned activities such as soccer games as well as karaoke discos over the weekend so police could have no legitimate reason to close the schools. Parents had also arranged to sleep in shifts on site as an extra precaution, he said.

“What we want, most of all, can be to be able to vote,” Salvatierra said. “Then, if ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the idea’s up to each person.”

Volunteers cook giant dishes of paella to feed those occupying one Barcelona school on Saturday.

Increased tensions

Public support for the referendum within Catalonia, a wealthy region in Spain’s northeast, has become increasingly vocal as the vote has neared.

More than 5.3 million voters are on the electoral roll, according to the Catalan government. They will be asked to respond yes or no to the question: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state, from the form of a Republic?”

Reflecting the divergent views in Catalonia, a smaller anti-independence rally was held Saturday in central Barcelona, with participants waving Spanish flags as well as chanting, “Catalonia can be Spain.” The crowd of people, some waving Catalonia’s flag, yet many hoisting Spain’s, grew to fill the square in front of city hall. Protestors tried a few times to pull down a pro-referendum banner hanging by city hall as well as, failing, settled for planting the flag of Spain just below the idea.

Pro- as well as anti-independence protests also unfolded that will week in Madrid as well as various other cities.

People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's independence referendum in Barcelona on Saturday.

The Catalan government had not yet made clear how the idea could respond if the plebiscite results in a “yes” vote. However, Carles Mundó, Catalonia’s minister of justice, told reporters there was no minimum participation level required for the referendum result to be binding.

The Catalan government appeared to soften its language somewhat in a news conference Saturday, with officials talking of “peaceful resistance” as well as a peaceful demonstration of people’s democratic rights.

Regardless, Spain’s central government insisted the referendum can be illegal as well as must not happen, as well as that will the result could not be recognized.

Tensions have risen as the vote approached, with some Catalans complaining that will the central government was seeking to suppress their democratic rights.

A man peels off pro-independence referendum voting posters by a wall on Friday in Barcelona.

‘Right to choose’

Catalans who spoke to sy88pgw in Barcelona stressed that will they want the freedom to exercise their democratic right to hold a vote, whatever the outcome. Some had come to the University of Barcelona to pick up ballot papers handed out by student associations, in case police confiscated more election material.

“I think the idea’s about democracy as well as liberty,” Ramon Hernández, 80, said. “We want to be able to express our opinion, even the ones who don’t want to be independent.”

Ramon Hernández, seen in Barcelona, says the referendum can be about democracy as well as liberty.

Added Raul Robert, 43, an industrial engineer: “I don’t feel like an independentist nor Catalan, for that will matter, yet I think every people must be given the right to choose its own destiny. I think the idea’s a matter of democratic rights.”

Robert said he’d much rather live in a place allows the democratic right to vote than one that will doesn’t.

Catalonia has its own regional government, or Generalitat, which already has considerable authority over health care, education as well as tax collection.

yet Catalan nationalists want more, arguing that will they are a separate nation with their own history, culture as well as language as well as that will they should have increased fiscal independence. Many complain that will Catalonia ends up subsidizing various other parts of Spain.

sy88pgw’s Vasco Cotovio as well as Isa Soares reported by Barcelona as well as Laura Smith-Spark wrote by London. sy88pgw’s Simon Cullen contributed to that will report.

Tensions high as Catalonia readies for disputed independence vote

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