The Latest: Parents occupy Catalan schools to protect vote

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BARCELONA, Spain — The Latest on Catalonia’s plans to hold a referendum Sunday on breaking away from Spain (all times local):

8 p.m.

Ruben Satinya wasn’t sure he would vote in favor of independence for Catalonia in Sunday’s disputed referendum, but the Spanish government’s effort to prevent the poll from taking place has convinced him to vote in favor of a break with Spain.

He is spending the night at his child’s Congres-Indians school in Barcelona, hoping to be joined by many other activists before police are expected arrive at 6 a.m. Sunday to clear the school to keep it from being used as a voting station.

Satinya doesn’t expect police to forcibly take them out of the school if the crowd is large enough to make removals difficult.

He says “I am Catalan, but my fight is for social and civil rights, and that is what this about.”

He adds “I believe in the basic right of self-determination.”

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6:00 p.m.

A grassroots group that has organized parents to keep schools in Catalonia open so they can be used as polling places for Sunday’s independence vote says the referendum could be in jeopardy unless more balloting stations can open.

Open Schools spokesman Ramon Font said that as of 5 p.m. Saturday the group did not know how many schools were being occupied by activists, but expects it to be by Sunday morning many more than the number Catalan police reported.

Catalan police said earlier Saturday that 163 schools were being occupied.

Font told The Associated Press he hopes the number will increase to all 2,315 schools designated as polling stations, but says much depends on whether police use force to vacate and shut schools to prevent balloting.

He warns: “If the number of schools kept open does not rise, then the ability to exercise our right to self-determination will be in serious jeopardy. It will be very difficult to vote.”

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5:55 p.m.

Thousands of Catalans are marching in downtown Barcelona in defense of Spanish unity and against a disputed referendum on the region’s independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday.

Protesters wrapped in red and yellow regional and national colors displayed a giant Spanish flag over their heads, as a light rain started falling late Saturday afternoon.

They chanted “Don’t let them fool you, Catalonia is Spain” and called for regional president Carles Puigdemont to step down.

Puigdemont openly favors Catalonia’s breaking away from Spain.

The crowd headed toward the gothic palace that houses the headquarters…

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