The Latest: Thousands protest Catalonia secession vote

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

2:25 p.m.

Thousands of people have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government’s push to hold a referendum on separating the region from Spain.

Spanish unity supporters packing Cibeles Plaza on Saturday morning shouted “Viva Espana,” and “Puigdemont To Jail!”

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, who openly favors breaking away from Spain, is among those promoting the independence referendum scheduled for Sunday.

The anti-secession demonstration was the biggest in Madrid since the referendum was called earlier this year. Similar demonstrations were held in other Spanish towns and cities.

While Spanish flags were everywhere at the Madrid demonstration, some of the protesters donned the flag used during Spain’s long right-wing dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. It features an eagle in the middle.


1:45 p.m.

A top Spanish security official in Catalonia says police have sealed off more than half of the 2,315 polling stations designated for a disputed referendum on the region’s independence from Spain.

Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish official in the northeastern region, said parents and students were found to be occupying 163 schools and holding activities when police were sealing off facilities on Saturday.

The regional police force has been ordered not to use force, but to vacate the schools by 6 a.m. on Sunday, ahead of the scheduled opening of polls at 9 a.m.

Millo says anyone remaining in schools after 6 a.m. will need to be removed in line with a judge’s orders, but predicts there won’t be significant problems.

He said: “I trust in the common sense of Catalans and that people will operate with prudence.”

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.


1:10 p.m.

The Spanish government’s appointee in Catalonia says the technology infrastructure for voting and counting ballots from the region’s disputed secession vote has been dismantled, making the referendum “absolutely impossible.”

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.

Millo says the agents disabled…

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