Spain and Catalonia in referendum showdown

Catalan referendum: Shakira's man Gerard Pique could bid adios to Spain

The national government has said police have secured 1,300 of 2,315 schools in Catalonia which had been designated as voting stations, according to Reuters.

But the 52-year-old laboratory worker changed her mind amid an unprecedented crackdown by Spain's government as it tries to prevent Sunday's independence referendum from going ahead.

The banter is good-natured, even when some people tell him they're not sure how they will vote or say they are reluctant to back independence for Catalonia, a region with its own language and cultural traditions.

"The government, exercising its constitutional functions, will enforce the law", Mendez said at a news conference. In a sign that large crowds are expected on the streets on Sunday, department store chain El Corte Ingles said it would shut three stores in central Barcelona.

Some anti-vote protesters scaled the windows of Barcelona's city hall and tore a banner calling for "More Democracy" that the municipal government had hung in response to efforts to halt the vote.

Catalan police have orders from the High Court of Catalonia to clear out these voting centers at 6 a.m. (0400GMT) Sunday morning to prevent the vote from taking place as planned.

At the same time, European Union officials say they will not mediate the dispute between Spain and Catalonia, calling it a matter of Spanish law.

Alongside the hidden ballots are thousands of plastic tubs, marked with the Catalan regional government's emblem, with numbered, red strips normally used to the secure the ballots after they are dropped in the boxes.

While the vote hasn't inspired mass public rallies or viral social media campaigns outside of Spain, it did prompt small demonstrations in Scotland, where many dream of obtaining independence from the United Kingdom. "We have reached a point of no return", said Cepeda, a Spanish flag tied around the waist.

Aspirations for an independent Catalonia, Spain's economic engine, have surged and ebbed for generations. He sees the vote on whether to break away from Spain as a chance for his long-held dream of a Catalan republic to become real.

Catalan police have told them they must vacate the premises so officers can carry out orders to empty the buildings by early on Sunday.

The Catalan government initially said it would refuse the order, though the head of the Catalan regional police, known as the Mossos d'Esquadra, later said he would comply with prosecutors.

Addressing the rally, Carles Puigdemont, the president of the autonomous region, said Catalonia has already won against the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whom he accused of being "authoritarian".

Barcelona police said 16,000 people took part in the protest, while organisers put the figure at 80,000.

Some 5.3 million people are eligible to vote in the region, one of 17 in Spain. "It isn't easy to have an agreement and study Spanish legislation but if they (Catalan clubs) do get that, then they will not be able to play in Spain's La Liga, but I hope it doesn't come to that", Tebas said.

The instruction also stresses that everyone has to go to the assigned polling stations, as no voting will be organized outside of the authorized sites.

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