Spanish police move in to stop banned Catalan independence referendum

Posted September 30, 2017

Catalonia, a region of northeast Spain with a population of 7.5 million, is moving ahead with a hugely contentious independence referendum to be held on Sunday as Spain's central government pledges to prevent it from taking place.

But Jordi Sanchez, the president of the Catalan National Assembly, an influential pro-independence organisation, told AFP the court order "simply says that on Sunday these spaces can't be used for the referendum".

Millo says the agents disabled software created to connect more than 2,300 polling stations and to share results, as well as applications for voting online.

The Catalan government shared on Saturday instructions through social networks and messengers describing how to occupy schools designated to serve as polling stations for a disputed independence referendum, in order to prevent police from sealing them. It has sent in thousands of police officers from outside the region, threatening to block polling stations. A day earlier, a Spanish court ordered Google to remove a voting location app from its Play Store, claiming it was helping Catalan separatists organize in advance of the vote.

The autonomous region handles policing and some health and education policies, but Spain runs key areas like taxes, defense and ports.

Catalonia's regional police have been ordered to evacuate and close polling stations by 6 a.m. on Sunday, ahead of the 9 a.m. vote.

"The police have been four times", said Laia, a 41-year-old sociologist at a school in central Barcelona where around 100 children were playing and 80 people were planning to stay the night while neighbours brought food.

Catalan officials said they planned to hold the referendum anyway.

On Saturday, the state prosecutor in Catalonia told all local and national police forces they would be placed temporarily under a single chain of command and report directly to the interior ministry in Madrid.

The ratings agency S&P maintained Spain's investment-grade sovereign credit rating Friday, but warned tensions between Madrid and Catalonia could weaken growth prospects if left unchecked.

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.

Barcelona may have to play in Italy, France or the Premier League if Catalonia gains independence from Spain, according to Catalonia's Minister of Sport, Gerard Figueras.

Spain is divided into 17 autonomous regions, of which Catalonia is one.

Kouloglou will observe Sunday's vote and has spoken with Catalan officials, who complained about "very brutal violations of the democratic rights" by Madrid.

Police have confiscated thousands of voting slips, and courts have fined and threatened to arrest regional officials.

"We are convinced that all internal matters will be solved in accordance with the laws of Spain". Parents had also arranged to sleep in shifts on site as an additional precaution, he said.

"I insist that there will be no referendum on October 1", central government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told a news conference Friday.