Police seal off polling stations as tensions rise before Catalonia referendum

  • Police seal off polling stations as tensions rise before Catalonia referendum

Police seal off polling stations as tensions rise before Catalonia referendum

Pro-separatist Catalans on Friday occupied several schools in Barcelona designated as a polling stations in a contested independence referendum, in a bid to ensure the vote goes ahead, according to AFP reporters at the scene.

The Spanish government maintains the referendum is unconstitutional and the country's Constitutional Court suspended the vote so it could consider the matter.

Opinion polls show that Catalonia's independence is supported by 41 percent of its residents, with 49 percent against it, and while as much as 80 percent of Catalans are in favor of the referendum, majority believe that the vote should be agreed upon with the central government in Madrid.

Dr James Summers is a Professor of International Law at Lancaster University.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told Reuters in an interview, however: "Everything is prepared at the more than 2,000 voting points so they have ballot boxes and voting slips, and have everything people need to express their opinion".

"I insist that there will be no referendum on October 1", government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said, adding that organisers would face criminal charges for trying to hold it.

Speaking to the crowd in Barcelona, president of the Catalan Parliament Carme Forcadell said that separatists must resist "provocations" by the central government.

"Can we vote or not?"

Courts have ordered regional and national police to seal off voting facilities on Sunday and thousands of officers have been sent to Catalonia in anticipation of potential unrest.

A Spanish sports minister claims that Barcelona could join the Premier League if Catalonia gains independence from Spain.

Despite tensions behind the scenes, most European leaders are shying away from taking a public stand on Catalonia.

Tractoradas (the word is possibly a play on the Spanish word Armada) could also be seen in Catalan towns like Girona and Tarragona on Friday.

The warning comes after a dozen Catalan officials were detained for two days last week. In a separate ruling, the magistrate ordered the Catalan technology agency to shut a chain of applications that potentially could be used for the vote.

Much remains unclear, including whether police will forcibly remove people who are still in the polling stations at a 6 a.m. Sunday deadline and how many of Catalonia's voters will be able to cast ballots amid the central government's crackdown.

The conservative government of the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, says any vote on Catalan secession would have to be held across all of Spain, not just in Catalonia.

In spite of massive, peaceful demonstrations escalating daily leading up to the vote, police have continued to crack down, attempting to conrfiscate voting materials and saying they will not allow people to access the polling stations. It was not immediately clear how many potential polling stations were being occupied.

Reflecting on the statement of US President Donald Trump who said he was in favour of a united Spain, Mr Puigdemont said: "It is evident that any state that is asked today about this issue will support the position of Spain".

However, the regional police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, has warned of "disruption of public order" if people are prevented from having their say.