The Latest: 73 percent of Catalonia vote centers open – Washington Post

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

11:30 a.m.

Catalonia’s government spokesman says that the disputed independence referendum is underway in 73 percent of about 6,000 polling stations despite a police crackdown to try to halt the vote and technological obstacles.

Jordi Turull called for Catalans to remain calm and patient but to defend “in a civic and peaceful manner” their right to vote after riot police blocked voting in some polling centers and confiscated ballot boxes amid clashes with protesting voters. Police have also fired rubber projectiles at protesters in Barcelona.

Turull said that “the world has seen the violence of the Spanish state,” calling actions by the police as “repression that is a reminder of the Franco era” in reference to Spain’s dictatorship from 1939-1975.

Turull said the Spanish government’s representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, should resign over the handling of the crackdown.

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11:10 a.m.

Spanish riot police have fired rubber projectiles at protesters outside a Barcelona polling station during Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum. Several people have been wounded.

The officers fired the projectiles while trying to clear protesters who were trying to impede National Police cars from leaving after police confiscated ballot boxes from the voting center.

An AP photographer witnessed how several people had been injured during the scuffles outside Barcelona’s Rius i Taule school, where some voters had cast ballots before police arrived.

Manuel Conedeminas, a 48-year-old IT manager who tried to block police from driving away with the ballot boxes, said agents had kicked them before using their batons and firing the projectiles, which were ball-shaped.

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10:45 a.m.

Several members of the Catalan regional government cast their ballots in a banned referendum on independence from Spain that became messy as riot police moved Sunday to halt voting in several polling centers.

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont voted in Cornella de Terri, near the northern city of Girona, after police took over control of the original polling center where he was due to appear, his spokesman Joan Maria Pique told The Associated Press.

Puigdemont has spearheaded the separatist politicians’ push to go ahead with the vote, despite a Constitutional Court suspension and fierce opposition by central authorities.

Regional vice president Oriol Junqueras also found his designated polling station taken over by police and moved to a different location where he eventually voted, regional broadcaster TV3 said.

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10:25 a.m.

Electoral volunteers at polling centers in Catalonia’s disputed referendum say they are unable to access census data because the website that hosted it is down, while internet service has been cut in some of the stations.

Technicians are working to set up new domains for the website where electoral managers need to register polling data, said Jordi Sole, a 48-year-old historian who displayed an accreditation with the regional government’s logo and said that was at the Collaso high school in Barcelona to assist with the voting.

Guillem Castillo, an 18-year-old engineering student designated as an electoral official there, said technical problems halted the voting shortly after it opened.

Spanish media reported similar problems with internet in polling centers across Catalonia.

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10:10 a.m.

Spanish riot police have forcefully removed a few hundred would-be voters from a polling station at a school in Barcelona.

Daniel Riano was inside when the police pushed aside a large group gathered outside busted in the Estela school’s front door.

The 54-year-old Riano said that “we were waiting inside to vote when the National Police used force to enter, they used a mace to break in the glass door and they took everything.”

He said that “one policeman put me in a headlock to drag me out, while I was holding my wife’s hand. It was incredible. They didn’t give any warning.”

Ferran Miralles said a crowd scuffled with police outside as they formed a tight perimeter around the door. Miralles said “they were very aggressive. They pushed me out of the way.”

Elsewhere in Barcelona, police have detained several people outside the Treball voting center amid scuffles on the street. Officers dragged some of the protesters away and detained them.

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9:30 a.m.

Spanish riot police have smashed their way into a polling station in Catalonia where the regional leader was expected to show up to vote in the disputed independence referendum.

Civil Guard riot police with shields have used a hammer to smash the glass of the front door of the voting center and lock cutters to force their way in. Scuffles erupted outside between police and people waiting to vote at the polling center in Sant Julia de Ramis, near the Catalan city of Girona.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. Television footage showed police using batons to disperse the crowds gathered outside the local sports center.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was scheduled to vote in the Sant Julia de Ramis sports center at 9.30 a.m. (0730 GMT; 3:30 a.m. EDT).

Puigdemont has spearheaded the separatist politicians’ push to go ahead with the vote, despite a Constitutional Court suspension and fierce opposition by central authorities.

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9 a.m.

Polling has begun in a banned referendum on Catalonia’s independence, with the first voters casting ballots amid cheers in some of the designated polling stations.

Parents, children and activist volunteers had occupied some of the 2,315 schools and other facilities to avoid closure from police acting on court orders.

Spain’s Constitutional Court ordered the vote to be suspended and central authorities say it’s illegal. Regional separatist leaders have pledged to hold it anyway, promising to declare independence if the “yes” side wins, and have called on 5.3 million eligible voters to cast ballots.

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8:30 a.m.

Catalan officials say that voters will be allowed to cast ballots at any polling station, rather than a designated one as previously announced, as many locations have been sealed off by police.

Regional government spokesman Jordi Turull says the last-minute system will allow the 5.3 million eligible voters to cast a ballot and avoid repeated votes.

Turull says that Catalans will be able to vote with ballots printed at home if needed, announcing that authorities had printed new ones after 5 million paper ballots were confiscated by police. He also said that a group of “academics and professionals” would serve as election observers.

The electoral board appointed by the regional parliament was disbanded last week to avoid hefty fines by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

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8:10 a.m.

Ballot boxes began arriving at some polling stations for a disputed referendum on Catalonia’s split from Spain that is being met with fierce opposition from Spanish authorities.

Police acting on court orders have been trying to confiscate ballot boxes for weeks as the crackdown to halt the vote intensified.

On Friday, officials unveiled a prototype of the plastic ballot boxes with a logo of the regional government.

Spain’s Constitutional Court ordered the vote to be suspended and central authorities say it’s illegal. Hopeful voters have been occupying out some of the designated voting stations to avoid police taking control and closing them off.

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6.25 a.m.

Some of the Catalans who are defying court orders to vote in a disputed referendum on their region’s secession from Spain say they want to send a strong message of displeasure with central authorities.

Activist Augsti Gil says there were no ballots or ballot boxes in Barcelona’s Joan Fuster high school where more than a hundred people have joined another hundred who spent the night occupying the designated polling station.

Gil says they expect materials to arrive Sunday morning ahead of the 9 a.m. opening of polls.

Joaquim Bosch, a 73 year-old retiree at Princep de Viana high school, where a crowd of 20 people was growing says he is uneasy about a possible police response to the crowds.

Bosch says: “I have come to vote to defend the rights of my country, which is Catalonia.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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