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updated: 9/30/2017 1:24 PM

Separatists vow to defy police ultimatum over Catalan vote

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  • EDS NOTE : SPANISH LAW REQUIRES THAT THE FACES OF MINORS ARE MASKED IN PUBLICATIONS WITHIN SPAIN. A young couple embraces in a courtyard of the Institut Moises Broggi, together with students occupying the school in Barcelona, one of the designated polling stations for the disputed Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

    EDS NOTE : SPANISH LAW REQUIRES THAT THE FACES OF MINORS ARE MASKED IN PUBLICATIONS WITHIN SPAIN. A young couple embraces in a courtyard of the Institut Moises Broggi, together with students occupying the school in Barcelona, one of the designated polling stations for the disputed Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • People gather inside of the Miquel Tarradell institute one of the designated polling stations for the disputed Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain, in Barcelona, Spain, early Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    People gather inside of the Miquel Tarradell institute one of the designated polling stations for the disputed Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain, in Barcelona, Spain, early Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • People gather inside of the Miquel Tarradell institute one of the designated polling stations for the disputed Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain, in Barcelona, Spain, early Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    People gather inside of the Miquel Tarradell institute one of the designated polling stations for the disputed Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain, in Barcelona, Spain, early Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • Protesters in legionnaires uniforms participate as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain. Message on t-shirt reads: 'The Legion, Patriotic Pride'.

    Protesters in legionnaires uniforms participate as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain. Message on t-shirt reads: 'The Legion, Patriotic Pride'.
    Associated Press

  • A man with the colors of the Spanish flag painted on his forehead protests as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.

    A man with the colors of the Spanish flag painted on his forehead protests as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.
    Associated Press

  • Police block the entrance of the city hall as protesters wave Spanish national flags in the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.

    Police block the entrance of the city hall as protesters wave Spanish national flags in the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.
    Associated Press

  • People waving Spanish national flags block the path of a bus as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.

    People waving Spanish national flags block the path of a bus as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.
    Associated Press

  • A man shouts at police officers as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.

    A man shouts at police officers as thousands packed the central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.
    Associated Press

  • Police officers intervene as crowds block traffic in central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.

    Police officers intervene as crowds block traffic in central Cibeles square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.
    Associated Press

  • People wave Spanish national flags as thousands packed the central Cibeles square to in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain. Writing on one of the flags reads: "Long live the Unity of Spain".

    People wave Spanish national flags as thousands packed the central Cibeles square to in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain. Writing on one of the flags reads: "Long live the Unity of Spain".
    Associated Press

  • A man in a legionnaires uniform hugs a man draped in a Spanish flag as thousands packed the central Cibeles square to in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.

    A man in a legionnaires uniform hugs a man draped in a Spanish flag as thousands packed the central Cibeles square to in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.
    Associated Press

  • People wave Spanish national flags as thousands packed the central Cibeles square to in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.

    People wave Spanish national flags as thousands packed the central Cibeles square to in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain.
    Associated Press

  • An officer of Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra regional police stands next to an advertising billboard pasted over with a "Yes" vote campaign poster in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    An officer of Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra regional police stands next to an advertising billboard pasted over with a "Yes" vote campaign poster in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • A man hands out Spanish flags to people demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    A man hands out Spanish flags to people demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • People carrying Spanish flags demonstrate against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    People carrying Spanish flags demonstrate against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession, in front of a building decorated with pro-independence banners, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession, in front of a building decorated with pro-independence banners, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • A man holds Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession, in front of a building decorated with pro-independence banners, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    A man holds Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession, in front of a building decorated with pro-independence banners, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • A young man wrapped in a Spanish flag gestures while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    A young man wrapped in a Spanish flag gestures while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    People wave Spanish flags while demonstrating against Catalonia's planned referendum on secession in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • Spanish National Police vans are parked next to a ship moored in the dock of Barcelona's port to house police reinforcements ahead of an independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalan authorities have pledged to make the voting possible even if police, acting on judges' orders, manages to close polling stations and seal off ballot boxes. The vote has been suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court and police have received orders to stop ballots from being cast on Sunday.

    Spanish National Police vans are parked next to a ship moored in the dock of Barcelona's port to house police reinforcements ahead of an independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalan authorities have pledged to make the voting possible even if police, acting on judges' orders, manages to close polling stations and seal off ballot boxes. The vote has been suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court and police have received orders to stop ballots from being cast on Sunday.
    Associated Press

  • An anti-independence demonstrator salutes for the camera as they march waving Spanish flags against the referendum downtown Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    An anti-independence demonstrator salutes for the camera as they march waving Spanish flags against the referendum downtown Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • A checkpoint of Spanish National Police controls the access to a ship moored in the dock of Barcelona's port to house police reinforcements ahead of an independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalan authorities have pledged to make the voting possible even if police, acting on judges' orders, manages to close polling stations and seal off ballot boxes. The vote has been suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court and police have received orders to stop ballots from being cast on Sunday.

    A checkpoint of Spanish National Police controls the access to a ship moored in the dock of Barcelona's port to house police reinforcements ahead of an independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Catalan authorities have pledged to make the voting possible even if police, acting on judges' orders, manages to close polling stations and seal off ballot boxes. The vote has been suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court and police have received orders to stop ballots from being cast on Sunday.
    Associated Press

  • Demonstrators holding a banner that reads "Catalonia is Spain" march defending the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    Demonstrators holding a banner that reads "Catalonia is Spain" march defending the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • Protesters wrapped in red and yellow regional and national colors display a giant Spanish flag over their heads while marching to defend the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    Protesters wrapped in red and yellow regional and national colors display a giant Spanish flag over their heads while marching to defend the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • Demonstrators holding a banner that reads "Catalonia is Spain" march defending the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    Demonstrators holding a banner that reads "Catalonia is Spain" march defending the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • Demonstrators display a giant Spanish flag over their heads while marching to defend the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    Demonstrators display a giant Spanish flag over their heads while marching to defend the unity of Spain and against a disputed referendum on the region's independence that separatist politicians want to hold Sunday, in Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. Catalonia's planned referendum on secession is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • Anti-independence demonstrators march waving Spanish flags against the referendum downtown Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.

    Anti-independence demonstrators march waving Spanish flags against the referendum downtown Barcelona Saturday, Sept. 30 2017. The planned referendum is due to be held Sunday by the pro-independence Catalan government but Spain's government calls the vote illegal, since it violates the constitution, and the country's Constitutional Court has ordered it suspended.
    Associated Press

  • Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis talks during an interview with The Associated Press about the Catalonia's referendum at the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Dastis said Saturday the Catalan government's plan is anti-democratic and runs "counter to the goals and ideals" of the European Union.

    Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis talks during an interview with The Associated Press about the Catalonia's referendum at the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Dastis said Saturday the Catalan government's plan is anti-democratic and runs "counter to the goals and ideals" of the European Union.
    Associated Press

  • Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis smiles before an interview with The Associated Press about the Catalonia's referendum at the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Dastis said Saturday the Catalan government's plan is anti-democratic and runs "counter to the goals and ideals" of the European Union.

    Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis smiles before an interview with The Associated Press about the Catalonia's referendum at the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Dastis said Saturday the Catalan government's plan is anti-democratic and runs "counter to the goals and ideals" of the European Union.
    Associated Press

  • Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis talks before an interview with The Associated Press about the Catalonia's referendum at the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Dastis said Saturday the Catalan government's plan is anti-democratic and runs "counter to the goals and ideals" of the European Union.

    Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis talks before an interview with The Associated Press about the Catalonia's referendum at the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Dastis said Saturday the Catalan government's plan is anti-democratic and runs "counter to the goals and ideals" of the European Union.
    Associated Press

 
 

BARCELONA, Spain -- Catalan separatists vowed Saturday to ignore a police ultimatum to leave the schools they are occupying to use in a vote seeking independence from Spain. As police methodically sealed off hundreds of schools, some parents decided to send their children home and girded for pre-dawn confrontations Sunday with police.

Tensions rose across the country over the planned vote. In the Spanish capital of Madrid, thousands marched to protest the separatists' attempt to break up their nation, demanding that Catalan leaders be sent to jail. In Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, thousands more also took to the streets to urge their prosperous region to stay united with Spain.

The police deadline of 6 a.m. Sunday for the activists, parents and children in the occupied Catalan schools is designed to prevent the vote from taking place, since the polls are supposed to open three hours later.

Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the independence vote more than three weeks ago and the national government calls it illegal. Police have been ordered to stop ballots from being cast on Sunday and have been cracking down for days, confiscating millions of ballots and posters.

Catalonia's defiant regional government is pressing ahead anyway, urging the region's 5.3 million voters to make their voices heard.

Spain's foreign minister dismissed the planned vote as anti-democratic, saying it runs "counter to the goals and ideals" of the European Union.

"What they are pushing is not democracy. It is a mockery of democracy, a travesty of democracy," Alfonso Dastis told The Associated Press in an interview.

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."

Spain's Interior Ministry said police had sealed off "most" of the region's 2,315 polling stations and disabled software being used in the referendum. Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish official in the northeastern region, said parents and students were occupying at least 163 schools by mid-Saturday, when about 1,000 more still needed to be checked. In a later update, the ministry didn't provide a new figure but only said "some" schools remained occupied.

The regional police force has been ordered not to use force in vacating the schools but Millo said anyone remaining after 6 a.m. will need to be removed.

"I trust in the common sense of Catalans and that people will operate with prudence," he said.

Authorities have already confiscated 10 million paper ballots in the last few days - which will make it much more difficult for Catalan officials to carry out an effective vote. Millo said the Spanish government would tolerate ad hoc voting in the streets but that those results could not be considered valid.

"They can always put a makeshift table in the street with some buckets and put papers in," he said. "But what Catalan authorities have promised, an effective referendum with legal basis and binding, is something that won't happen."

At the Congres-Indians school in Barcelona, designated as a polling place, activist Quim Roy said he would be sending his two daughters home before the deadline out of concerns about possible violence. He said other parents planned to do the same.

"Who knows what will happen if the Guardia Civil comes?" Roy said, referring to the Spanish national guard.

He said he would not resort to violence but will not leave the building voluntarily.

"If they tell me I can't be in a public school to exercise my democratic rights, they will have to take me out of here. I won't resist, but they will have to carry me out," he said.

Organizers set up a range of activities in the schools - including yoga sessions, games, film screenings and picnics - to keep spirits high as the historic confrontation with Spain's central government unfolds.

Roy said there were no ballot boxes or ballots yet at the school but he was not worried about that.

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

At the La Sagrera primary school in Barcelona, parent Saverio Trioni said 20 parents and children slept over on Friday but "we expect way more tonight. The plan is 100 at least." They are holding a music festival to keep everyone occupied.

Trioni said, however, that "we will leave if ordered to."

A pro-independence grassroots group admitted that Sunday's vote could be in jeopardy unless more schools were kept open to hold it. 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.

"If the number of schools kept open does not rise, then the ability to exercise our right to self-determination will be in serious jeopardy. It will be very difficult to vote," Font said.

In Madrid, thousands of people rallied Saturday in a central plaza to protest the Catalan independence vote, angry and fearful that it could divide Spain. Some shouted "Long live Spain!" and "Puigdemont to jail!"

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont, who openly favors breaking away from Spain, is among those promoting the independence vote.

In Barcelona, Francisco Morales, a 69-year-old retiree, said he was marching Saturday to defend the unity of Spain against the "lies" of Catalan separatists. Morales and his wife were among thousands protesting the independence referendum.

"We don't want division. It's been enough lies telling people that they can't be Catalans and Spanish at the same time," Morales said. "The politicians supporting independence are bending the law to tear this country apart."

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.

Dozens of similar protests calling for the nation's unity popped up in other Spanish cities in the first large grassroots response to the Catalan independence bid.

The main civic group behind Catalonia's push for independence said - given the concentrated efforts by Spain to block the vote - that a turnout of 1 million voters, less than a fifth of the electorate, should be considered an "overwhelming success."

Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly, told reporters that police actions in Catalonia may make a large turnout difficult.

Catalan authorities had hoped previously for a larger turnout than the 2.3 million people who voted in a mock referendum in 2014 in which 80 percent favored independence.

The Catalan government has pledged to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of Sunday's vote if the 'yes' side wins, no matter what the turnout is.

___

Ciaran Giles contributed from Madrid.

___

Follow complete AP coverage of the Catalonia referendum here .

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