Spain Minister brands Catalonia independence referendum 'mockery of democracy'

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"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.

He insisted, however, that the Catalan police force take their orders from local authorities.

But Jordi Sanchez, the president of the Catalan National Assembly, an influential pro-independence organisation, told AFP the court order "simply says that on Sunday these spaces can't be used for the referendum".

Parents occupied schools in a bid to prevent police from restricting access to their use Sunday as polling stations. This comes after 163 schools were occupied by families to prevent their closure.

"We believe it is good that these species will remain open, that they not close", he added.

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Catalonia's separatist executive has vowed to go ahead despite Madrid's ban.

Officials linked to the referendum have also been arrested. In a sign that large crowds are expected on the streets on Sunday, department store chain El Corte Ingles said it would shut three stores in central Barcelona. Mounting police threats are having no effect, and people are already queuing up at the polling stations days ahead of schedule. "We call on the global community to support us and on democrats the world over to help us to defend the rights that are threatened in Catalunya, such as the right of freedom of expression and the right to vote", the Manchester City boss said at a rally back in June.

"Act in a peaceful way and do no respond to any provocation, from other citizens or from police".

The Madrid-based Spanish government has declared the referendum illegal and unconstitutional, and threatened organizers to hold the vote with criminal charges. With Barcelona as its regional capital, Catalonia contributes a fifth of Spain's 1.1 trillion euro ($1.32 trillion) economy.

The rise of the Catalan separatist movement may be a effect of Rajoy's party's hardline policy on the region's autonomy, the political scientist said.

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However, anti-independence demonstrations have also taken place, including thousands turning out in Madrid.

"Today we've defeated an authoritarian state", Catalonia's regional president, Carles Puidemont, said Friday at the closing rally of the secession campaign. "Even if someone attacks a polling station, Catalans will still be able to vote".

Catalan newspapers reported Saturday that the Mossos were going to schools where polling was set to take place and informing people there that if they were not holding legitimate activities, the facilities would be closed.

Hundreds of teachers gathered at the regional government's headquarters on Thursday, chanting "we will open" and "we will vote".

He said: "If the Catalan government succeed it will be a drama for Europe, starting with the United Kingdom, because it will mean that a region can disobey the rule of law".

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When four local trains arrived at both the stations, the people on the bridge started to move towards the two platforms. He added that Railway Minister Piyush Goyal was in Mumbai "taking stock of the situation and ensuring all assistance".

And despite the passions provoked on both sides, there has been no violence nor calls to violence, but the tension has turned Catalan independence into a powder keg in Western Europe.

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