: Tension grows in Spain as Catalan vote nears—referendum another marker in global independence movement

On the eve of a hotly contested independence referendum in Spain, demonstrations broke out across the country for and against a banned vote that the government is trying to prevent.

The government of the northeastern region of Spain, Catalonia, one of the country’s most important and prosperous, has vowed that Sunday’s vote will go ahead. Spain’s central government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has closed polling stations, shut down websites, arrested officials and flooded the region with thousands of police, all in an attempt to stop the vote from taking place.

Read: 5 things investors need to know about Catalonia’s independence referendum

In Madrid, where the central government is housed, the red and yellow national flag could be seen draped across balconies,sometimes in just one or two apartments of a multi-unit building. In other spots, long streaming flags were strung across buildings, and at times were completely covering buildings. The flag has become a symbol for some of a united Spain, and a protest against one of its region’s desire to break away.

Spanish flag draped over sign for Chocolateria San Gines, near Sol, Madrid, on Friday.

Spanish national flags drape all the balconies on a building near Sol, central Madrid.

On Saturday, at least one anti-independence rally gathered at city hall. Notably, mostly young people were singing “Facing the Sun,” an anthem of the Spanish Falange party, with arms raised high in a fascist salute:

Demonstrations were also reported in Zaragoza, the capital city in the region of Aragon:

And in Barcelona, the capitol of Catalonia, and which has been at the heart of referendum movement:

Media outlets reported that of the 1,300 schools designated as voting centers in Catalonia, some 163 had been occupied by protesters hoping to prevent Los Mossos d’Esquadra, the regional police of Catalonia, from ejecting voters on Sunday, according to Spanish news agency EFE. The regional police had been ordered by central Madrid to help prevent the vote, according to reports.

A poll conducted by The National, a Scottish daily in favor of its own independence from Britain, and carried out over three weeks through Thursday, showed that with the Spanish boycott against the referendum in place, 62% of voters said they were energized to turn out. Under this scenario, 83% would vote yes and 16% would vote no.

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