Spanish police move to prevent Catalonia independence vote

Spanish national police moved to shut down a banned independence referendum in Catalonia on Sunday, confronting crowds of angry voters at some polling stations. Pascale Davies reports.

GIRONA, BARCELONA AND MADRID, SPAIN (REUTERS / FORTA) – Catalonia’s independence referendum off to a chaotic start as police try to stop people from voting.

The Spanish government has pledged to stop the poll declared illegal by the country’s central government.

Police facing a showdown with angry voters at some polling stations, trying to prevent them from entering and seizing ballot boxes.

Madrid says it had shut at least 1,300 polling stations on Saturday.

But those defiant for the vote to go ahead managed to keep them open by occupying them overnight.

Emotion running high for those able to vote in Barcelona.

Pressure for a referendum vote in Catalonia has grown over the past few years.

The wealthy region of 7.5 million people has its own language and culture.

It also has a high degree of autonomy, but is not recognized as a separate nation .

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont originally said that if the “yes” vote wins, the Catalan government would declare independence within 48 hours.

But even if that happens, the ballot will have no legal status, as it’s been blocked by the constitutional court.

And it’s Madrid that has the ultimate power,

Under its 1978 charter it can suspend the regional government’s authority to rule if it declares independence.