Spanish govt. deploys police in Barcelona to prevent referendum vote

Gerard Piqu

Raids on Government offices have also seen 14 of the region's officials arrested and 10 million ballot papers impounded.

Jorge Toledo, Spain's deputy minister for the European Union, said at an European Union conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on Friday that talks with Catalonia could start once the region is complying with the law.

"I think it's about democracy and liberty", Ramon Hernández, 80, said.

But Brussels has preferred to sit on the sidelines of what it views as an internal dispute in Spain. The Spanish constitution says Spain is "indivisible".

Hundreds of supporters of the referendum spent the night in schools with their children and say they plan to remain there until Sunday to keep them open for voters.

Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish official in the northeastern region, said parents and students were found to be occupying 163 schools and holding activities when police were sealing off facilities on Saturday. Mounting police threats are having no effect, and people are already queuing up at the polling stations days ahead of schedule.

After Rajoy met with his cabinet in Madrid, his government repeated its pledge that the referendum wouldn't happen. It has deployed thousands of extra police from across the country to Catalonia to stop the vote.

Gerard Piqu

Puigdemont insisted that everything was set-up so that the referendum "takes place normally".

He said he planned to stay home on Sunday, in part out of fear of unrest.

"Both sides have been very stubborn, the Spanish and the Catalan, and the only victims are going to be us", Mr. Satue said.

"Act in a very peaceful manner and don't react to any kind of provocation, from other citizens or even by cops", the directions read and passed on to potential voters, remember, the World is watching.

Thousands of people gathered in central Madrid on Saturday to protest against the planned secession vote.

The possibility that Catalonia would split off from Spain is very much like California's "Calexit" movement.

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".

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The anti-separatist demonstration was the largest in the Spanish capital since the referendum was called earlier this year.

In a sign of how the breakaway attempt is fiercely opposed elsewhere in Spain, rallies took place outside town halls in major cities, including Cordoba, Malaga and Zaragoza.

In another regional election, Catalonia's pro-independence parties narrowly win the most seats. Farmers and firefighters have vowed to protect polling stations.

Police also seized the regional government's telecommunications centre, the BBC reported.

On September 20, Spain's military police also raided Catalan government offices, during which at least 14 junior officials and associates were arrested and nearly 10 million ballot papers were seized.

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

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