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Mass rally in supprt of Sunday's referendum underway in Catalonia
00:23, 30 September 2017
Mass rally in supprt of Sunday's referendum underway in Catalonia

University students and farmers' tractors rallied in Barcelona this afternoon

00:23, 30 September 2017
AP

At least 10,000 striking high school and university students rallied in Barcelona this afternoon to defend Catalonia's right to hold an independence referendum which has been banned by Madrid. RTE reported. 

A parade of farmers' tractors also rolled into Barcelona on Friday in support for Catalonia's independence vote as Catalan and Spanish authorities issued conflicting statements on whether the disputed referendum would even take place on Sunday, CBS News reported

The vehicles, many with Catalan flags, drove slowly into the city to the cheers of residents who stood by the side of the road.

The students, many draped in red and yellow Catalan independence flags, gathered outside a building at the University of Barcelona in the center of the Catalan capital.

"We will vote!" and "Independence!" they chanted as they marched along the Gran Via, one of Barcelona's main avenues, blocking traffic.

"The majority of young people are separatists, and if they weren't, they have become separatist after seeing what Spain has done in recent weeks," 16-year-old high school student Aina Gomez told AFP.

Opinion polls show Catalans are split on the issue of independence, but a large majority want to vote in a legitimate referendum to settle the matter.

Over the past few days, judges and prosecutors have ordered the seizure of electoral material including millions of ballot papers, the closure of websites linked to the vote and the detention of key members of the team organizing the referendum.

The electoral board set up to oversee the vote has been dissolved, and on Tuesday prosecutors ordered police to seal off places to be used as polling stations and guard them until Sunday.

Some students have said they may occupy schools and universities that could be used as the polling station in Sunday's referendum in the wealthy northeastern region of Spain which is home to 7.5 million people.

Related: Referendum on independence to take place in Catalonia on October 1

Catalonia's regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, warned yesterday that there was a risk of a "disruption of public order" if police sealed polling stations as they have been instructed to do.

Spain's government calls the vote illegal since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended. Spanish authorities have been cracking down on efforts to organize the vote, detaining organizers and confiscating ballots and posters.

 

Related: Common features of Catalonia and Crimea

Timeline of the Catalan independence campaign

28 June 2010

Spain’s constitutional court strikes down parts of a 2006 charter on Catalan autonomy that had originally increased the region’s fiscal and judicial powers and described it as a “nation”. The court ruled that using the word “nation” has no legal value and also rejects the “preferential” use of Catalan over Spanish in municipal services. Almost two weeks later, hundreds of thousands protest on the streets of Barcelona, chanting “We are a nation! We decide!”

At the height of Spain’s economic crisis, more than a million people protest in Barcelona on Catalonia’s national day, demanding independence in what will become a peaceful, annual show of strength.
The pro-independence government of Artur Mas defies the Madrid government and Spain’s constitutional court by holding a symbolic vote on independence. Turnout is just 37%, but more than 80% of those who voted - 1.8 million people - vote in favor of Catalan sovereignty.
Carles Puigdemont, who has replaced Mas as regional president, announces an independence referendum will be held on 1 October. Spain’s central government says it will block the referendum using all the legal and political means at its disposal.
The Catalan parliament approves referendum legislation after a heated, 11-hour session that sees 52 opposition MPs walk out of the chamber in Barcelona in protest at the move. Spain’s constitutional court suspends the legislation the following day, but the Catalan government vows to press ahead with the vote.
Police arrest 14 Catalan government officials suspected of organizing the referendum and announce they have seized nearly 10 million ballots destined for the vote. Some 40,000 people protest against the police crackdown in Barcelona and Puigdemont accuses the Spanish government of effectively suspending regional autonomy and declaring a de facto state of emergency.

The Referendum is scheduled for October 1.

 

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