Catalonia gears up for independence poll Sunday despite Madrid's hindrance

Spain’s Catalonia is gearing up for an independence referendum on Sunday despite attempts to hinder the process by the government in Madrid, which considers it illegal.

Catalans have staged numerous protests and occupied polling stations to secure their right to vote. Over six thousand ballot boxes will be used, and there are more than 2,300 polling stations across the region.

Read more

Screenshot from Google Play

The referendum was not authorized by federal authorities and the country’s Constitutional Court ruled it illegal. Prior to the vote, Madrid launched a crackdown on Catalonia, local government buildings were raided and top-ranking Catalonian officials, including Junior Economy Minister Josep Maria Jové, were arrested over referendum documents. 

The government also wanted to take direct control over the local police force in a bid to halt the upcoming vote. The action was denounced it as “intervention attempt” by Catalonia’s Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, who also said that the local police refused to comply with the order.

The Spanish government forced Google to block an application which provided information to the citizens on where and how to vote. Madrid also ordered the shutdown of all polling stations and deployed thousands of its troops to the region.

On Saturday, the Civil Guard raided the Center of Telecommunications and Technologies of Information (CTTI) to switch off applications that could be used to count the results, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo. 

READ MORE: Catalan president gives instructions on Twitter after referendum website blocked

However, to make sure the vote happens locals staged numerous sit-ins at schools and other sites that are supposed to serve as polling stations.

“What you see here was not planned beforehand. We are all neighbors of this area of the city and we are defending the place where we want to vote on Sunday. If you turn around you will see more people, when the doors of this school open-we will just swap places in order to keep defending this voting place,” Juan Sebastian, one of the locals staying at a school, told RT. 

“Due to the threat of the sealing of schools, people from the educational community have organized themselves, not only here, but all over Catalonia, to make sure we can vote freely on Sunday,” Miguel Angel Torrijos, a father of one of the school children, told RT’s Ruptly news video agency. 

People across the region have been protesting the crackdown on the vote. Earlier this week, farmers staged a protest in Barcelona, flying Catalonian flags on their tractors and chanting “we will vote.”

On Thursday, Catalan firefighters unfurled a giant banner in front of the Museum of Catalan History in Barcelona, depicting a ballot box with the words “love democracy” written across it.

The Spanish government still says the referendum is illegal and vows that it will not allow this to happen. 

“I insist: there will be no referendum on October 1st,” government spokesperson Inigo Mendez de Vigo said on Friday during a press conference following the weekly cabinet meeting.