Saturday, 16 December, 2017

Spanish police to remove Catalan independence voters from polling stations

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Wallace Pearson | 01 October, 2017, 00:48

On the other hand, Carles Puigdemont promised that the referendum on the independence of Catalonia, a rich north-eastern province of 7.5 million people, would be held, although the Spanish court ruled that it was unconstitutional.

In a sign of how the planned vote has polarised the country, thousands of pro-unity demonstrators gathered in Spain's major cities, including Barcelona, to express their fierce opposition to Catalonia's attempt to break away.

José Maria Salvatierra, a 55-year-old public worker serving as a polling coordinator at one school, told CNN that parents had planned activities such as soccer games and karaoke discos over the weekend so police would have no legitimate reason to close the schools.

One man burnt the Catalan flag while a group tried to tear down a banner reading "More democracy" hanging from the front of the town hall to cheers from the crowd. Millo said the Spanish government would tolerate ad hoc voting in the streets but that those results could not be considered valid. The source did not give details on how this would be carried out but said it would be up to the police as to how they remove people.

"We are people who have experience with difficulties, and every difficultly makes us stronger", he said.

In order to halt the vote, Madrid has increased pressure on Catalan officials over the past week.

The Catalan regional government said police had also 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.

The vote is scheduled to proceed despite fierce opposition from Madrid, including seizure of millions of ballot papers, arrests of Catalan election officials, censorship of referendum websites, and heavy daily fines for election board members as long as the vote moves forward.

In Madrid, thousands of people rallied in a central plaza on Saturday to protest over the Catalan independence vote, angry that it could divide Spain.

The Catalan newspaper "LaVanguardia" reported today, citing Radio RAD1's claims that the Spanish police had entered the telecommunications and technology center of the Catalan government, but the police did not confirm the raids, said Reuters.

A majority of the region's residents do however support holding a referendum - so the vote could go either way.

Spain's central government and Catalan authorities agree on devolving more powers to the northeastern region, including finance, health care and education.

At the La Sagrera primary school in Barcelona, parent Saverio Trioni said 20 parents and children slept over on Friday but "we expect way more tonight". Many complain that Catalonia ends up subsidizing other parts of Spain.

On Sunday, Catalonia is expected to hold a referendum. But Madrid snubs Catalan officials by refusing to grant greater financial independence to the region.

Police and Spain's interior ministry did not confirm the action.

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