Spanish court orders Google to delete app used for Catalan independence vote

Reflecting the divergent views in Catalonia, a small anti-independence rally was held Saturday in central Barcelona, with participants waving Spanish flags and chanting, "Catalonia is Spain".

The dramatic turn of events, first reported by Catalan News, was an opening salvo by the Spanish government to prevent what it regards as an illegal vote from taking place.

The Catalan police received an order to vacate all buildings by Sunday morning, cops were advised to refrain from using violence, and that about 17,000 police officers would respond to this order as the key to the success or failure of the planned referendum.

The regional government has, however, vowed that the poll will go ahead on Sunday despite Madrid's crackdown. "It is a mockery of democracy, a travesty of democracy".

He accused some pro-independence groups of "adopting Nazi-like attitudes by pointing at people that are against that referendum and encouraging others to harass them".

Catalan police already have sealed off 1,300 polling stations, or more than half of the 2,315 locations. The Court also instructed Google to delete an application that was issued to inform civilians on the vote.

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

Officers have also been seizing items such as ballot papers, while prosecutors have ordered the closure of websites linked to the vote and the arrest of officials organising the referendum. The Spanish constitution says Spain is "indivisible". However, Carles Mundó, Catalonia's minister of justice, told reporters there was no minimum participation level required for the referendum result to be binding.

"I am aware they have a job to do, that they have their orders and have to carry them out".

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"They will appear", he said with a shrug.

Al Jazeera's John Hendren, reporting from Barcelona, said both sides have been preparing for confrontation over the looming vote. They are holding a music festival to keep everyone occupied.

But still separatist leaders are determined to hold a vote with a semblance of legitimacy on Sunday. Open Schools spokesman Ramon Font told the AP he did not have an exact number on how many schools were being occupied but felt it was more than the number stated by police.

In Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Santander, Alicante and Valencia, thousands protested for Spanish unity. Some shouted "Long live Spain!" and "Puigdemont to jail!" Some 1 million Catalans voice their anger in a march through Barcelona. "The politicians supporting independence are bending the law to tear this country apart".

The national government rejects the vote as propaganda.

Asked directly what Estonia's position was on current attempts of Catalan nationalists to push for the region's independence from Spain, Ratas said that this was "definitely an internal matter".

"If it doesn't take an interest in what is happening in Catalonia when everyone is watching and taking an interest, there's something wrong", he said, accusing the European Union of "looking the other way". "At all times, before using force, you must take into account what might be the consequences of this police action and avoid the escalation of this situation, especially when there are children, elderly or other vulnerable people amongst the crowd", the document, whose authenticity was confirmed by a police spokeswoman, said.

The Catalan government said police have settled into its communications hub and will remain there for the next two days after it was ordered by Catalonia's High Court to police to stop electronic voting.

While there is no clear indication of what the outcome of a vote would be, the 2015 regional election was won by an alliance of pro-independence parties, with about 40% backing pro-Spain parties.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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