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Thousands rally in Madrid for Spanish unity ahead of Catalonia vote

Thousands rally in Madrid for Spanish unity ahead of Catalonia vote”

Alongside the hidden ballots are thousands of plastic tubs, marked with the Catalan regional government's emblem, with numbered, red strips normally used to the secure the ballots after they are dropped in the boxes.

Dastis said the radical CUP party that shores up Catalonia's separatist-minded government was "adopting Nazi-like attitudes by pointing at people that are against that referendum and encouraging others to harass them".

"I trust in the common sense of Catalans and that people will operate with prudence", he said.

Millo says the government is ready to ensure safety as significant numbers of people are expected to take their political views to the streets on Sunday.

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday that there's no way the regional administration will pull off its plan to hold an illegal referendum on independence on Sunday.

Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish central government official in the region, said Civil Guard agents acting on a judge's order searched on Saturday the headquarters of CTTI, the Catalan regional center in charge of technology and communications.

"Catalans will be able to vote", said the region's Vice-President, Oriol Junqueras.

Regional authorities in Catalonia have pushed ahead with plans for Sunday's referendum even though Spain's Constitutional Court has ruled it to be illegal. "It is a mockery of democracy, a travesty of democracy", Alfonso Dastis told The Associated Press in an interview.

The central government has shut down the electronic vote-counting system in Catalonia.

He says voter referendums can't be equated with democracy, saying that often they are the "instrument of choice of dictators".

A court in Barcelona ordered Google to delete a mobile app the Catalan government was using to distribute information about how and where to vote.

Catalan separatists vowed Saturday to ignore a police ultimatum to leave the schools they are occupying to use in a vote seeking independence from Spain.

José Maria Salvatierra, a 55-year-old public worker serving as a polling coordinator at one school, told CNN that parents had planned activities such as soccer games and karaoke discos over the weekend so police would have no legitimate reason to close the schools. The Guardia Civil were stationed on ships in the port of Barcelona in case they were needed.

The Catalan government had not yet made clear how it would respond if the plebiscite results in a "yes" vote.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of tractors, were driven into Barcelona and other towns to act as protective barriers around polling stations, and referendum activists occupied schools across Catalonia in a move to keep them open for the vote.

Picnics, yoga sessions and film screenings have been organised through the night at some sites to try to stop police shutting them down.

The latest surge for independence essentially started in 2010, when Spain's constitutional Court struck down key parts of a groundbreaking charter that would have granted Catalonia greater autonomy and recognized it as a nation within Spain.

-Sept. 11 2012: On Catalonia's national day, a huge turnout provides a show of force for the independence movement.

Almost 100,000 residents of Barcelona gathered in the city's center to express their support for Catalonia's upcoming independence referendum, the rally organizers told Sputnik. Kouloglou will observe Sunday's vote and has spoken with Catalan officials, who complained about "very brutal violations of the democratic rights" by Madrid.



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