October 1 vote on Catalan independence: Spain steps up attempts to suppress Catalan referendum

Catalans confront riot squads from the Spanish national police sent in to stop the referendum, October 1, 2017.

Spanish national police have sealed off 1,300 of 2,315 schools in Catalonia designated as polling stations for the October 1 independence referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. Police have also occupied the Catalan government’s telecommunications centre. Thousands of national police officers are currently stationed on board two cruise ships docked in Barcelona’s port, to disrupt any voting, “and ultimately to guarantee Spanish sovereignty over Catalonia,” a BBC correspondent wrote. Restrictions have also been introduced on commercial light aircraft and helicopters flying over Barcelona over the weekend “to prevent activists trailing banners,” local media reported.

Spanish national police smash their way into a school to block people from taking part in the referendum.

But the people have also occupied schools to keep them open for the vote. Hundreds of teachers gathered at the Catalan government’s headquarters on Thursday, September 28, chanting “We will open!” and “We will vote!” A website — escolesobertes.eu (“open schools”) — has been set up so people can track which schools are open.

Catalans began camping out to protect the polling stations at schools two days before the vote.

Tractors also entered the towns from the countryside and parked next to the schools, organizing what is now called a tractorada.

“We are asking for tractors to be parked peacefully near polling stations and, if they try to close them, impede them or make it as difficult as possible,” a member of one farmers’ group, Gerard Batalla, told AFP news agency earlier this week. “Simply leave them there, without going further.”

Farmers use their tractors to protect polling stations from police repression.

The Catalan government has asked for a referendum to decide Catalonia’s independence from Spain for the past five years. Under a law passed by the local parliament, Catalan leaders say they may declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of the vote.

“After the official proclamation of the results, which should take a few days, there is a period of 48 hours to proclaim independence but this does not exclude the possibility of us making yet another appeal on the night of October 1 [Sunday] for the need to sit down and talk to resolve this politically,” Catalan President Carles Puigdemont told BBC News on September 29.

Firefighters in Barcelona express solidarity with the referendum.

The BBC reports: “Meanwhile, a smartphone app launched to spread information has been targeted by the courts.”

Catalonia’s high court told Google to delete the “On Votar 1-Oct” app from its application store. It said the app violated court orders to suspend the referendum. The app had received “more than 1,100 five-star reviews, many of which directly appeal to Google to ignore the court,” BBC reports, adding that the referendum’s official website domains have also repeatedly been seized.

Catalonia lies in the northeast of Spain. Its 7.5 million people comprise 16 per cent of Spain’s population. Catalonia has 25.6 per cent of Spain’s exports, 19 per cent of Spain’s GDP and 20.7 per cent of its foreign investment according to information provided by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness; Eurostat; and the Bank of Spain. On September 29, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said the referendum was illegal but that he would work towards a political solution between the Madrid government and the Catalan administration.

Students in Catalonia on strike in support of the referendum.

Thousands gather for the final referendum rally in central Barcelona, September 30, 2017.

Source: cpcml.ca

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