Stopping the Catalan vote at any cost

Chipper Henderson closes on Mozo in New Zealand Women's Open

Spanish police have occupied the Catalan government's communications hub on the eve of a banned independence referendum which Madrid is attempting to thwart, the regional authority said on Saturday.

Puigdemont has vowed to push ahead with the independence vote for Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region that is home to about 7.5 million people, even though a Spanish court has ruled that the vote is unconstitutional.

The Catalan regional government's plan to hold an independence referendum is a mockery of democracy, Spain's foreign minister has said.

Dr James Summers is a Professor of International Law at Lancaster University.

At least two schools in the centre of Barcelona were occupied, according to the journalists, while a "platform of open schools for the referendum" posted on Twitter images of several occupied polling stations.

They have arranged an independence referendum for Sunday, which Madrid has repeatedly deemed "illegal and undemocratic".

Meanwhile the Spanish Agency for Data Protection advised that the 7,235 people who have been called to supervise the election face fines of between 40,000 euros (47,270 USA dollars) and 300,000 euros (354,500 dollars) because according to the agency, as the referendum is not official, they "cannot deal with details of the census as members of an electoral table".

"I am going to sleep here, with my oldest son who is a student here", Gisela Losa, a mother of three, told AFP at the Reina Vionnant primary school in Barcelona's fashionable Gracia neighbourhood where pro-independence sentiment runs high.

Police have been under orders to confiscate all referendum materials and to prevent public buildings being used as polling stations, while key figures in the referendum campaign have been threatened with prosecution.

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The European Union said Catalonia would be forced out of the bloc and would have to reapply to join if it left Spain.

"Given the seriousness of the situation in is my obligation as mayor of its capital, Barcelona, to call on the European Commission to open space for mediation between the Spanish and Catalan governments to find a negotiated and democratic solution to the conflict", she wrote in an editorial published in The Guardian newspaper. Of the around 2.3 million Catalans - less than half of those eligible - who vote, more than 80 percent choose secession.

Catalonia has its own regional government, or Generalitat, which already has considerable authority over health care, education and tax collection.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he will do "whatever is needed" to prevent it.

Dastis said the radical CUP party that shores up Catalonia's separatist-minded government was "adopting Nazi-like attitudes by pointing at people that are against that referendum and encouraging others to harass them".

Other Catalans camped out in polling stations in order to defy court orders to close them.

Reflecting on the statement of US President Donald Trump who said he was in favour of a united Spain, Mr Puigdemont said: "It is evident that any state that is asked today about this issue will support the position of Spain".

Tens of thousands of Catalan separatists have taken part in a final rally ahead of Sunday's planned referendum on independence from Spain.

The instruction also stresses that everyone has to go to the assigned polling stations, as no voting will be organized outside of the authorized sites.

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