TENSIONS in Spain were high last night as police prepared to break up today’s banned referendum on Catalonian independence by force.
More than 7,000 residents in the wealthy region, which has 7.5 million inhabitants and its own language, had already barricaded themselves in schools with their children, intent on keeping polling booths open.
In Madrid, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy deployed thousands of police officers with orders to place rings of steel around the buildings and block the vote which has been branded unconstitutional.
The vote has been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. Police have also occupied the region’s communications hub, following orders to prevent electronic voting.
The vote has been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court
Despite the efforts, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont insisted the vote, expected to attract tens of thousands, would go ahead.
At a closing rally for the independence campaign in Barcelona on Friday, people formed the slogan “Referendum is democracy in large white letters on a stage in front of a cheering crowd.
Elsewhere in Spain, however, rallies were held against the referendum, with hundreds gathering in the centre of Madrid waving Spanish flags and chanting Spanish unity.
Catalonia independence referendum: Spain threatens to REMOVE voters from polling stations.
Chaos is expected to break out in Catalonia today after a Government official revealed Spanish police will remove people trying to vote at polling stations.
The Catalan Government has called a referendum on independence for the region to breakaway from Madrid rule.
President Carles Puigdemont said he will declare independence in the outcome of a yes vote – which would cause a constitutional crisis in Spain.
But the illegal referendum will be blocked at every opportunity by the Spanish government.
Speaking to Reuters news agency a parliament insider said police will remove” voters from the stations.
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However, those determined to vote have already begun waiting in the schools and other stations so they cannot be blocked from entering on Sunday.
We slept and waited for them (police) so that they would not try to evict us or tell us what they wanted,” Giselle, who did not give her surname, said at a central Barcelona school where adults and children slept in sleeping bags on gym mats.
They came once and they were very polite. We told them we were inside and in peace.
t would be up to the police how they remove people, the official source said.
Volunteers staffing polling stations and using the national census in Sunday’s banned Catalan referendum on independence from Spain will be liable for fines of up to 300,000 euros ($354,360), the source said.
Arrests and clashes with the police are expected.
The northeastern region is home to 7.5 million people and has its own devolved government, language and culture.
Catalonia has been split by separatist tensions for decades which look set to boil over.
Earlier this week 12 Catalan officials were arrested during a raid on several government offices.
Catalan, which includes Barcelona has insisted their wealthy areas prop up the rest of Spain during economic crises.