Catalans gather to vote in referendum banned by Spain
Thousands of Catalans gathered at designated polling stations on Sunday morning as they sought to defy Spanish authorities by voting in a banned independence referendum that has raised fears of unrest in the wealthy northeastern region.
The referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and raised fears of street violence as a test of will between Madrid and Barcelona plays out.
Civil Guard national police also streamed in a convoy through the streets of Barcelona in the early morning, but at dawn there was no sign of either national or Catalan police enforcing a court order to lock down the polling stations.
At some stations, voters blocked doors in anticipation that police could try to enter and take over the sites. At one, a Barcelona school, organisers asked people to use passive resistance if police intervened.
“I have got up early because my country needs me,” said Eulalia Espinal, a 65-year-old pensioner who started queuing with around 100 others outside one polling station, a Barcelona school, in rain at about 5 a.m. (0300 GMT).
“We don’t know what’s going to happen but we have to be here,” she said.