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Of 1,300 Catalan schools inspected, 163 are occupied by members of public

Citizens in the northeastern Spanish region are trying to ensure education centers can be used as polling stations on Sunday

referendum cataluña
Parents spending the night in the Diputacio school. EL PAÍS

Hundreds of people last night slept in schools throughout the Catalonia region, in a bid to stop the authorities from sealing them off to prevent them from being used as polling stations on Sunday, when an illegal referendum on independence is due to take place.

Despite rising police and political pressure to stop the poll from happening, the atmosphere in Catalonia thus far today has been festive and without incident, apart from in Manlleu (Barcelona), where three people sustained light injuries after being shot at with an air rifle.

Of the 1,300 schools that have been inspected by the regional Mossos d’Esquadra police force, 163 have been occupied

According to information supplied at midday by the central government delegation in Catalonia, of the 1,300 schools that have been inspected by the regional Mossos d’Esquadra police force, 163 have been occupied by members of the public.

Meanwhile, the Civil Guard has assumed control of the regional government’s Telecommunications Center, to avoid electronic votes from being cast on Sunday.

Via its official Twitter account, the Catalan government denounced the move. “This is another display of the disproportionate acts by the state to repress the referendum,” its message read.

While there are no official rallies planned for today in the region, given that the day before elections in Spain usually sees campaigns suspended for a “day of reflection,” hundreds of people are currently taking to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the referendum, which has been suspended by the country’s Constitutional Court.

In Madrid, meanwhile, two demonstrations were held, one in favor of the referendum and one against, with other similar protests seen throughout the country.

There are no voting places, no ballot papers, no authorities to check the authenticity of the results

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis

Via its Twitter account, the Interior Ministry sent out a message pointing out that the 15,000 officers that make up the regional Mossos d’Esquadra Catalan police force swore to uphold the Spanish Constitution. The Mossos have been ordered to clear out any schools being occupied by members of the public at 6am tomorrow, but have been given strict instructions regarding the limited use of force they must employ when they do so.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky News, the Spanish foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, stated on Saturday that Catalonia would not be holding an independence referendum tomorrow, although there might be a “simulation of a vote” in some areas. “There are no voting places, no ballot papers, no authorities to check the authenticity of the results,” he said. “There may be some type of simulation of a vote in certain places and streets, but I don’t believe that there will be any referendum.”

Dastis went on to say that the Spanish authorities will do “all that is possible” to ensure that the day passes “peacefully.” “The security forces are showing a lot of moderation, acting in a proportionate manner, and if there is violence it is not coming from them,” he said. “While there might not be physical violence, there is intimidation and harassment on the part of the groups who support the referendum,” he added.

The Catalan Socialist Party denounced on Saturday graffiti that appeared to threaten one of its mayors

Dastis went on to say that for the central government to begin negotiations with the Catalan regional government, there can be no preconditions of accepting an independence referendum, stating that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has “shown his willingness to begin talks.”

Meanwhile, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) denounced on Saturday graffiti that appeared to threaten one of its mayors, Noemí Trucharte. In power in the Catalan municipality of Vilanova del Camí, Trucharte was the object of a threatening message that read: “Noemí Trucharte, remember that you are mortal!” Mayors in Catalonia have been put in a difficult situation in terms of the planned referendum, given that those who have been unwilling to cede public buildings for use as polling stations have met a hostile reception from pro-independence supporters, while those who are willing to do so risk arrest.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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