BARCELONA – Thousands of pro-unity demonstrators opposing a banned referendum on Catalonian independence from Spain gathered in a Barcelona sq. on Saturday in an indication of how the disputed vote on Sunday has divided the nation.
The referendum, declared unlawful by Madrid, has thrown the nation into its worst constitutional disaster in many years and raised fears of road violence as a take a look at of will between the central authorities and the rich northeastern area performs out.
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Demonstrators waving Spanish flags stuffed the central sq. exterior the seat of the regional authorities and Barcelona metropolis corridor. One man burnt the Catalan flag whereas a bunch tried to tear down a banner studying ‘More democracy’ hanging from the entrance of the city corridor to cheers from the gang.
Hours earlier than voting was as a result of begin, it was nonetheless unclear whether or not the referendum would go forward regardless of the regional authorities’s assertions that it’s going to proceed and Madrid’s insistence that it’s going to block the transfer.
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Tens of hundreds of Catalans are anticipated to try to vote on Sunday, though the poll that can don’t have any authorized standing because it has been blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court and Madrid for being at odds with the 1978 structure.
Catalonia has 7.5 million folks, many of whom communicate the Catalan language, and has a bigger economic system than Portugal.
Spanish police monitored colleges earmarked as polling stations and occupied the Catalan authorities’s communications hub on Saturday in an effort to forestall the referendum from going forward.
Hundreds of supporters of the referendum spent the evening in colleges with their youngsters and say they plan to stay there till Sunday to maintain them open for voters.
A Spanish authorities supply stated greater than half the colleges had been closed off and police would take away individuals who tried to vote on Sunday. Less than a tenth of colleges have been occupied by dad and mom, the supply stated.
Should the vote happen, a “yes” vote is probably going, given that almost all of the 40 % of Catalans who polls present assist independence are anticipated to forged ballots whereas most of these in opposition to it usually are not.
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Parents in some of the occupied colleges stated law enforcement officials had instructed them they might keep so long as they weren’t doing something linked with the referendum.
“The police have been four times,” stated Laia, a 41-year-previous sociologist at a faculty in central Barcelona the place round 100 youngsters have been taking part in and 80 folks have been planning to remain the evening whereas neighbors introduced meals.
“They read us out the part of the court order that says no activities related to the preparation of the banned referendum are allowed.”
The Catalan police, or Mossos d’Esquadra, who’re monitoring the colleges, are held in nice affection by the Catalan folks, particularly after Islamist assaults in the area in August that killed 16.
Madrid has despatched hundreds extra police to the area in the northeast of Spain to implement a court docket order banning the referendum, many of whom are billeted in two ships in the port.
The Spanish authorities supply stated it will be as much as police how they carried out orders to take away folks from polling stations on Sunday. The head of the Catalan police on Friday urged officers to keep away from the use of pressure.
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Organizers urged voters to reach at 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) at polling stations and to attend in line till the colleges opened. Voters should present peaceable resistance to police motion, organizers stated.
“We must be sure there are lots of people present of all ages,” they stated in directions disseminated on social media.
Any volunteer staffing a voting station with use of a census can be accountable for a superb of as much as 300,000 euros, the federal government supply stated.
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Pro-national unity crowds gathered all through Saturday exterior city halls together with Cordoba, Malaga and Zaragoza, exhibiting that many Spaniards dwelling in different elements of Spain fiercely reject any try by Catalonia to interrupt away.
Hundreds gathered in the middle of the capital Madrid waving Spanish flags and chanting ‘Spanish unity’ and ‘Don’t idiot us – Catalonia is Spain’. Many balconies in the capital are draped with the pink and yellow Spanish flag.
Some sang the Spanish fascist anthem ‘Facing the Sun’, a hymn usually performed throughout the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. (Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Hugh Lawson)