Spain’s government cracks down on Catalonia’s banned secession vote as separatists camp out at schools across region.

According to officials, Spanish police have sealed off more than half of schools earmarked as polling stations for a banned referendum on Catalonia’s breakaway from Spain. 

The central government in Madrid said on Saturday that 1,300 of 2,315 designated voting stations have been sealed off by police, who have been mobilized in the thousands in the region.

Catalonia is a wealthy region within Spain that accounts for about 20% of the country’s economy. It has its own language, which is taught in schools and universally spoken. Opinion polls show Catalonia’s roughly 7.5 million residents are divided on independence.

Speaking from a central Barcelona school, where adults and children slept in sleeping bags on gym mats, a separatist supporter who identified herself only as Giselle said: “We slept and waited for them (police) so that they would not try to evict us or tell us what they wanted.

Police forces have been ordered not to use force, but to vacate the schools by 06.00 AM on Sunday, ahead of the scheduled opening of polls at 09.00 AM. A survey commissioned by the regional government in July showed 49.4% of Catalans were against independence while 41.1% were in favor.

More than 70% of Catalans want a legal “Referendum on Independence” to settle the issue once and for all.

Al Jazeera / AA Magnum Analyst Blog-Site News 2017.

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