Separatists Vow to Defy Police Ultimatum Over Catalonia Vote

Barcelona’s defender from Spain Gerard Pique

Catalonia, one of Spain's 17 autonomous regions, has some 7.5 million people and includes the tourist-popular Mediterranean port of Barcelona, the country's second-largest city, which is home to a Catalan parliament and regional government.

In Madrid, thousands of people rallied in a central plaza on Saturday to protest over the Catalan independence vote, angry that it could divide Spain. The government has ordered police and the Guardia Civil, or Spanish Civil Guard, to confiscate all election-related materials, including the actual ballot boxes.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont called for "mediation" Saturday to resolve the "serious" political battle dividing his regional authority from the central government in Madrid.

He said comparisons to Cameron granting a Scottish referendum were "not valid or helpful to explain the situation in Catalonia because of Spain's written constitution, which is a product of a different history".

"Our hope", Mitjans argued, "is that the massive presence of people prevents them from sealing off the polling stations".

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After Rajoy met with his cabinet in Madrid, his government repeated its pledge that the referendum wouldn't happen.

"I think it's about democracy and liberty", Ramon Hernández, 80, said.

As the Spanish government continued trying to block an independence referendum scheduled to take place October 1 in Catalonia, on Saturday pro-independence voters occupied dozens of schools that had been designated as polling stations, in hopes of evading efforts by police officers to restrict access and stop the vote on Sunday.

Google has now removed the "On Votar 1-Oct" app from the Play Store following a ruling by Spanish courts.

Despite Spain's moves to prevent voting, Catalonia's regional government plans to open more than 2,000 polling stations on Sunday. That appears to underscore the reality that several thousand police can't really "stop" this vote. He said his supporters would cast ballots on Sunday as planned.

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Pro-independence campaigners have been forced to camp out in polling stations in a bid to avoid them being shut down by authorities.

-Sept. 11 2012: On Catalonia's national day, a huge turnout provides a show of force for the independence movement. "We told them we were inside and in peace", she told Reuters news agency. While the referendum has gained massive support, including from former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, the Spanish Prime Minister has declared the vote as "illegal".

Earlier on Saturday, Spanish police raided the Catalan government's telecommunications and information technology center, the La Vanguardia newspaper reported, citing RAC1 radio station.

The Spanish government has promised to halt the referendum.

On Friday, Catalan farmers rode tractors through the streets of Barcelona, driving slowly and waving pro-independence flags and banners.

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Despite the tension in the region, demonstrations by independence campaigners have been largely peaceful.

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