Police seal off half of Catalonia's referendum poll stations

Spanish police have sealed off half of Catalonia’s polling centres and are hoping to empty them all before the banned referendum is due to take place on Sunday.

But with weeks of antagonism and tension coming to a head, neither side is showing signs of backing down from a confrontation that has pitched Spain into a political and constitutional crisis.

Families were camping out a school in Barcelona’s Gracia neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon, hoping to prevent police closing it down.

It’s one of over a hundred and sixty schools separatist activists hope to be used as polling stations in a vote which has already been ruled as unconstitutional.

The police came once and they were very polite,” Giselle, a local woman at the school in Gracia neighbourhood, said. “The strategy is to smile and have as many people as possible outside the schools. The more the better,” Hector, another local resident, said.

Police vehicles and thousands of police officers have been ferried into Barcelona by the Madrid government.

On Saturday local media reported that police raided the Catalan government’s telecommunications and information technology centre.

That came after a judge ordered Google on Friday to remove an application that was providing information on the referendum.

But on Friday night the mood was confident and good natured at an referendum rally.

The Spanish government has maintained the ballot cannot and will not happen because it contravenes the constitution, which refers to “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.”

Any vote on Catalan secession would have to be held across all of Spain, the government says.

The Catalan regional government and local civic groups insist they are entitled to exercise their democratic rights and intend to do so regardless of the obstacles.
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