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Activists occupying Catalan schools told to leave

Police in Catalonia have given parents, children and activists a deadline to leave the region’s schools as the Spanish government battles to prevent an independence referendum being held tomorrow. 

Parents supporting the referendum have organised to occupy schools throughout the weekend so they can be used as polling stations.

The Spanish government considers the referendum illegal and the country’s Constitutional Court has suspended it, but regional separatists have vowed to go ahead with balloting.

The Spanish government considers the referendum illegal and the country’s Constitutional Court has suspended it, but regional separatists have vowed to go ahead with balloting 

People gather inside of the Miquel Tarradell institute in Barcelona in one of the designated polling stations for the disputed referendum on independence from Spain tomorrow

Independence supporters, many wearing the colours of FC Barcelona - the region's successful football club - clung from the tractors in a loud, forceful show of strength, while the estelada was draped around dozens of supporters

Independence supporters, many wearing the colours of FC Barcelona – the region’s successful football club – clung from the tractors in a loud, forceful show of strength, while the estelada was draped around dozens of supporters

Catalan police officers report the activities organized by parents in a school at the Gracia neighbourhood in Barcelona today

Catalan police officers report the activities organized by parents in a school at the Gracia neighbourhood in Barcelona today

Spanish national police vehicles enter the port of Barcelona. Hundreds of Spanish  police and civil guard reinforcements are housed in two ferries ahead of the referendum tomorrow 

Spanish national police vehicles enter the port of Barcelona. Hundreds of Spanish police and civil guard reinforcements are housed in two ferries ahead of the referendum tomorrow 

People unfurl the Catalan pro-independence Estelada flag during a protest called by the organization 'Galicia with Catalonia' in Santiago de Compostela today 

People unfurl the Catalan pro-independence Estelada flag during a protest called by the organization ‘Galicia with Catalonia’ in Santiago de Compostela today 

A demonstrator shouts at a Mosso d'Esquadra, a Catalan regional policeman, in front of city hall during a demonstration in favor of a unified Spain

A demonstrator shouts at a Mosso d’Esquadra, a Catalan regional policeman, in front of city hall during a demonstration in favor of a unified Spain

Catalan police arrive at the Cervantes school in Barcelona 

Catalan police arrive at the Cervantes school in Barcelona 

The Catalan police force is under orders to empty the buildings by early Sunday. Officers have been directed to refrain from using violence to remove parents and students. 

Spain’s government said today police had sealed off 1,300 of 2,315 schools in Catalonia.

An official government source said 163 schools which have been earmarked as voting centres have been occupied by families.

Parents supporting the referendum have organised to occupy schools throughout the weekend so they can be used as polling stations 

Parents supporting the referendum have organised to occupy schools throughout the weekend so they can be used as polling stations 

This morning, parents, children and activists started a day of activities after spending the night in schools across the region, which are designated as polling stations for the vote 

This morning, parents, children and activists started a day of activities after spending the night in schools across the region, which are designated as polling stations for the vote 

Quim Roy, a father of two daughters in Barcelona, says police officers told the few dozen parents and children at the Congres-Indians primary school they can’t display campaign materials in favor of the disputed referendum and must leave the premises by 6am tomorrow.

This morning, parents, children and activists started a day of activities after spending the night in schools across the region, which are designated as polling stations for the vote.

Yoga sessions, film screenings and picnics have been organized at some of the 2,315 voting facilities that referendum supporters are trying to keep police from shutting down. 

Separatists are pictured holding a demonstration in Barcelona on Thursday

Separatists are pictured holding a demonstration in Barcelona on Thursday

Thousands of people gather at the final pro-independence rally at Plaza Espana last night ahead of Sunday's referendum vote  in Barcelona

Thousands of people gather at the final pro-independence rally at Plaza Espana last night ahead of Sunday’s referendum vote in Barcelona

How the 17,000 regional officers respond to the vacate order is seen as key to the success or failure of the planned vote. 

It comes after hundreds of tractors rolled into Barcelona to protect polling stations ahead of the outlawed vote.

Striking images capture the moment more than 500 of the heavy vehicles were driven in to protect the polling stations intended for the referendum.

Independence supporters, many wearing the colours of FC Barcelona or flying the estelada flag, clung from the tractors in a loud, forceful show of strength yesterday.

Around 4,000 state police from other regions have been deployed to prevent the vote and maintain security. They will join 5,000 state police based in the region and 17,000 local police, or Mossos d'Esquadra

Around 4,000 state police from other regions have been deployed to prevent the vote and maintain security. They will join 5,000 state police based in the region and 17,000 local police, or Mossos d’Esquadra

More than 500 of the tractors rolled around the cities roundabout cheered on by hundreds more vocal supporters ahead of Sunday's vote

More than 500 of the tractors rolled around the cities roundabout cheered on by hundreds more vocal supporters ahead of Sunday’s vote

According to laws passed by local government, should Catalan leaders see a successful referendum vote, they may declare themselves independent from Spain within 48 hours

According to laws passed by local government, should Catalan leaders see a successful referendum vote, they may declare themselves independent from Spain within 48 hours

The protest came as police seized more than 2.5million ballots in a Catalan town in a bid to scupper the referendum. 

‘The Guardia Civil seized 2.5 million ballots, four million envelopes and 100 ballot boxes in a warehouse in Igualada,’ said a source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source said the company involved alleged the ballot boxes were ‘for elections at FC Barcelona’, without giving further details.

A spokesman for the football club confirmed that the company had indeed provided FC Barcelona with ballot boxes for elections of its president in the past, but could not comment further. 

Catalonia's separatist leader Carles Puigdemont (pictured) has defended plans to stage a 'banned' referendum - despite being unable to explain how independence from Spain would work

Catalonia’s separatist leader Carles Puigdemont (pictured) has defended plans to stage a ‘banned’ referendum – despite being unable to explain how independence from Spain would work

Striking images capture the moment more than 500 tractors were driven into Barcelona for the Catalan independence referendum which has been banned by officials in Madrid

Striking images capture the moment more than 500 tractors were driven into Barcelona for the Catalan independence referendum which has been banned by officials in Madrid

The north-eastern Spain has its own language and culture, and a high degree of autonomy, but it is not recognised as a separate nation by the Spanish state

The north-eastern Spain has its own language and culture, and a high degree of autonomy, but it is not recognised as a separate nation by the Spanish state

Driving slowly along the city’s broad boulevards in support, many of the tractors carried the Catalan pro-independence flag – the estelada – to the headquarters of the regional government.

Similar tractor protests were held across Catalonia. While a conservative group in Madrid has set up a large, mock ballot box in the centre of the city and urged people to vote on whether they want Catalonia to remain a part of Spain. 

The act in Madrid’s emblematic Puerta del Sol square on Friday came in criticism of Catalonia’s planned referendum on secession. 

Despite this, the Spanish government has pledged to stop the referendum, which it says is unconstitutional. 

The fight for Catalan independence 

More than 2,300 polling stations are ready for the Catalan independence referendum slated for Sunday but banned by Madrid, the regional separatist government said today.

Spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters there would be ‘2,315 polling stations all over the region’ and more than 7,200 people involved in holding the referendum despite a crackdown by Madrid.

‘A total of 5.3 million Catalans who have the right to vote are called to vote,’ he said.

At the end of the press briefing, Turull, Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras and Raul Romeva, in charge of foreign relations for the Catalan executive, unveiled a plastic ballot box with a regional government stamp on it.

Police have for days been seizing electoral items such as ballot papers as they follow orders to stop the referendum from taking place, after courts ruled it unconstitutional.

But they had failed to find any ballot boxes until Thursday, when police seized 100 from a warehouse in a Catalan town, although the company in charge alleged they were destined for internal elections at the FC Barcelona football club.

Over the past few days, judges and prosecutors have also ordered the closure of websites linked to the vote and the detention of key members of the team organising the referendum.

On Wednesday a judge ordered police to prevent public buildings from being used as polling stations. 

Meanwhile, Catalonia’s separatist leader has defended plans to stage the referendum – despite being unable to explain how independence from Spain would work.

Carles Puigdemont wants supporters to defy Spanish efforts to block the vote on Sunday by turning out at polling stations that police have been ordered to keep shut.

The 54-year-old has described Madrid’s attempts to ban the referendum as ‘authoritarian repression’, ‘a violation of our basic rights’ and ‘the fall of democracy’.     

Across Europe, people are watching Catalonia’s independence referendum closely and nervously – but quietly.

A strong turnout that results in a majority vote for the ‘yes’ side on Sunday could embolden other breakaway-minded regions. A secession trend on the continent would put new strains on the European Union.

People gather outside of the Collaso i Gil elementary school. The Catalan police force is under orders to empty the buildings by early Sunday. Officers have been directed to refrain from using violence to remove parents and students

People gather outside of the Collaso i Gil elementary school. The Catalan police force is under orders to empty the buildings by early Sunday. Officers have been directed to refrain from using violence to remove parents and students

Quim Roy, a father of two daughters in Barcelona, says police officers told the few dozen parents and children at the Congres-Indians primary school they can't display campaign materials in favor of the disputed referendum and must leave the premises by 6am tomorrow 

Quim Roy, a father of two daughters in Barcelona, says police officers told the few dozen parents and children at the Congres-Indians primary school they can’t display campaign materials in favor of the disputed referendum and must leave the premises by 6am tomorrow 

The EU's silence has been especially conspicuous since Catalan officials appealed to the bloc directly to mediate the dispute. Pictured: The Miquell Tarradell institute  

The EU’s silence has been especially conspicuous since Catalan officials appealed to the bloc directly to mediate the dispute. Pictured: The Miquell Tarradell institute  

How the 17,000 regional officers respond to the vacate order is seen as key to the success or failure of the planned vote

How the 17,000 regional officers respond to the vacate order is seen as key to the success or failure of the planned vote

Scotland, Belgium’s Flanders region and the Faroe Islands under Denmark’s control are some of the places with independence movements.

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

They’re reluctant to back either the Catalan separatists who are bucking Spanish law to hold the referendum or Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s heavy-handed efforts to block it.

The EU’s silence has been especially conspicuous since Catalan officials appealed to the bloc directly to mediate the dispute.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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