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Catalan independence referendum: Police occupy voting stations and Barcelona communication hub

30 September 2017

Tens of thousands of secessionist Catalans have taken to the streets in Barcelona to promote the "Yes" campaign in their final rally ahead of the controversial referendum on independence from mainland Spain.

Opinion polls show Catalans are split on the issue of independence, but a large majority want to vote in a legitimate referendum to settle the matter.

—March 2014: Spain's Constitutional Court rules that Catalonia can't go ahead with a planned November 9 vote on its independence, as all Spaniards must be allowed to cast a ballot.

Organizers have set up a range of activities in the schools to keep spirits high as the historic confrontation with Spain's central government unfolds, including yoga sessions, games, film screenings and picnics.

Spain's Constitutional Court has ordered balloting to be suspended while judges consider if the referendum is lawful.

"Everyone I know is dismayed, we talk of nothing else".

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Jordi Turull, the Catalan executive's spokesman, said Friday in Barcelona that nearly 7,000 volunteers are ready to open 2,315 polling stations across the region of 7.5 million people.

It is crunch time in Catalonia, where for the past five years the region's devolved government has demanded a referendum on independence from Spain, the BBC's Tom Burridge reports from Barcelona.

The software integrated Google Maps and Global Positioning System functions and was meant to allow Catalan voters to find their nearest polling stations during the October 1 referendum, and to share information related to such locations.

Catalan officials say they will declare independence within 48 hours after announcing the results if the Yes side wins.

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

However, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont yesterday said that the referendum would go ahead regardless. Sounds familiar? That night, separatists promised to hold an independence referendum and proclaim the independence if they won it.

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Lorena Torrecillas, a 27-year-old physiotherapist who passed by the student protest, said she opposed independence because the pro-separatist camp had not explained well enough what the advantages of splitting from Spain would be.

Italy's far-right Northern League, which has spearheaded referendums for more autonomy in northern Lombardy and Veneto, spoke out against the recent arrests of Catalan leaders ordered by Spain's government.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday, Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said: "What they are pushing is not democracy".

Catalonia has its own regional government, or Generalitat, which already has considerable authority over health care, education and tax collection. Parents had also arranged to sleep in shifts on site as an additional precaution, he said. However, he added that the EC respects the decision of the Spanish constitutional court and the Spanish Parliament.

Tebas recently said that Barcelona would be in a Catalan division that "wouldn't be much better than the Dutch league".

Spain's Madrid-based government has kept the prosperous northeastern region in a chokehold for too long, he said.

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Catalan independence referendum: Police occupy voting stations and Barcelona communication hub