Pro-independence Catalans hold large rally ahead of referendum


The Catalan government claimed that more than 7,200 people will staff 2,315 polling stations across the region to stage a vote on October 1 that has triggered the country's worst territorial crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago. While the referendum has gained massive support, including from former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, the Spanish Prime Minister has declared the vote as "illegal".

On Saturday, Guardia Civil officers raided the Catalan government's telecommunications and information technology center, Joan Maria Piqué, the worldwide communications director for the government of Catalonia, told CNN.

The referendum on independence was called by the regional government led by Carles Puigdemont, who has vowed to go ahead with his plans in spite of the court ban.

The Catalan police received an order to vacate all buildings by Sunday morning, cops were advised to refrain from using violence, and that about 17,000 police officers would respond to this order as the key to the success or failure of the planned referendum. In the Catalan countryside, farmers have begun driving in tractors to surround the schools and prevent police from barring the doors prior to the vote.

Over the past 10 days, the authorities have stepped up their efforts to stop the referendum, arresting 14 senior Catalan government officials, shutting down referendum websites, and seizing millions of ballot papers.

Friday also saw a judge order media giant Google to remove an application giving information about the outlawed referendum.

The Catalan government appeared to soften its language somewhat in a news conference Saturday, with officials talking of "peaceful resistance" and a peaceful demonstration of people's democratic rights.

-March 2014: Spain's Constitutional Court rules that Catalonia can't go ahead with a planned November 9 vote on its independence, as all Spaniards must be allowed to cast a ballot.

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Catalan authorities say they will declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of the vote if residents there choose to secede.

"I think that from now it would be logical for the European Union to actively monitor (the situation) and actively take an interest", he said.

As the vote nears, Puigdemont said he was "trying not to let emotions take over", insisting that talks with Madrid would be inevitable. "It's a problem of respecting Spanish laws that Spaniards have to resolve".

Added Raul Robert, 43, an industrial engineer: "I don't feel like an independentist nor Catalan, for that matter, but I think every people must be given the right to choose its own destiny".

The Catalonian population makes up for 16 percent of Spain's population.

Bastarreche said: "Most countries have written constitutions, and the Spanish one is a product of our 500-year history, and one of its central principles is the indivisibility of the kingdom".

Catalan Quim Roy, a father of two daughters, is occupying a school with other protesters who have organised picnics, yoga sessions and other activities.