Spanish police have sealed off schools earmarked as polling stations and occupied the Catalan government’s communications hub in efforts to prevent a banned independence referendum.
Supporters of the poll spent Friday night in schools with their children and say they plan to stay until Sunday to keep them open for voters, although a Spanish government source says more than half have been closed off.
Tens of thousands of Catalans are expected to attempt to vote in a ballot that will have no legal status as it has been blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court and Madrid for being at odds with the 1978 constitution.
Catalonia is a wealthy region within Spain with its own language, which is taught in schools and universally spoken.
“We slept and waited for (police) so they would not try to evict us or tell us what they wanted,” Giselle, who did not give her surname, said at a Barcelona school where adults and children slept on gym mats.
“They came once and they were very polite. We told them we were inside and in peace,” Giselle added.
A Spanish government source said police, who have been mobilised in their thousands to the region in the northeast of Spain to enforce a court order banning the referendum, would remove people from polling stations on Sunday.
The Catalan government said police had occupied its communications hub and would remain there for two days after Catalonia’s High Court ordered police to prevent electronic voting and instructed Google to delete an application it said was being used to spread information on the vote.
Despite central government and court efforts to prevent the referendum, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told Reuters on Friday it would go ahead, with no last minute compromise.
“Everything is prepared at the more than 2000 voting points so they have ballot boxes and voting slips and have everything people need to express their opinion,” Puigdemont said.
On Saturday the government source said police had sealed off 1300 of the 2315 schools in the region which were designated to be used for polling and 163 had been occupied by families.