Catalans Camp at Voting Sites as Independence Confrontation Looms

“Imagine you would have been offered the chance to fight alongside George Washington,” Mr. Elías said. “At that time, revolution meant weapons and war, but we’re now in the 21st century and we will have our paper ballots instead to bring about real change.”


Parents gathered on Friday at the Miquel Tarradell school in Barcelona, a polling station, to oppose efforts to prevent voting.

Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

The government of Catalonia, an autonomous region in northeast Spain, this month approved laws to hold the referendum, which it said would be binding. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has warned that the vote violates the Constitution and that Spain will use all possible means to stop it.

But a large number of Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents are likely to ignore that warning, presenting Mr. Rajoy with the uncomfortable choice between using security forces to clear large crowds, or allowing the vote to take place and thereby acknowledging that the nation’s government in Madrid was unable to control events. Among the central players on Sunday will be Catalonia’s regional police, who number 17,000, and who have signaled reluctance to use force on citizens who go to vote.

Police on Saturday entered the Catalonian regional government’s telecommunications and information technology center after a court on Friday ordered them to stop electronic voting. The court also ordered Google to eliminate an application designed to help Catalans identify polling stations.

Opinion polls have indicated that less than half of the region’s residents support independence — though a majority want to vote on the region’s future — and crowds gathered on Saturday in Catalonian cities and towns to call for unity with Spain.

Fernando Satue, 67, a retired mechanic who was born in Huesca…

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