Catalans assemble in polling stations defying police orders

Catalans were defying rain and police orders to leave designated polling stations Sunday ahead of a banned referendum on the region’s secession that has challenged Spain’s political and institutional order.

The country’s Constitutional Court has suspended the vote and the Spanish central government says it’s illegal. Regional separatist leaders have pledged to hold it anyway and have called on 5.3 million eligible voters to cast ballots.

Defiant crowds gathered before dawn Sunday in Barcelona and towns across Catalonia at schools and some of the other 2,315 facilities designated as polling stations. They were joining parents, children and activists who occupied the buildings over the weekend to make sure that polls open at 9 a.m. (0700GMT) on Sunday.

It was unclear how many of the polling stations would be able to open, if any at all. The Ministry of Interior didn’t provide a number late on Saturday when it said that “most” of them had been sealed off and that only “some” remained occupied.

Police have received orders to avoid the use of force and only have been warning people to vacate the facilities. They are also supposed to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes.

Activist Augsti Gil said there were no ballots or ballot boxes early Sunday at Barcelona’s Joan Fuster high school, where hundreds have gathered ahead of the vote, but he expected them to arrive by the time polls opened.

Tension has been on the rise since the vote…

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