Police in Catalonia gave parents, children, and activists a Sunday morning deadline to vacate the schools they are occupying to safeguard the buildings as polling stations for a disputed referendum on the region's independence from Spain. Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the vote more than three weeks ago and police have received orders to stop ballots from being cast on Sunday. Catalonia's government has pressed ahead anyway and called on the region's 5.3 million registered voters to make their voices heard, the AP reports.
Parents supporting the referendum organized to camp out throughout the weekend at schools that are among the 2,315 designated voting facilities to keep police from them shutting down. The Catalan police force has been directed to empty the buildings by early Sunday, but to refrain from using violence to remove parents and students. How the 17,000 regional officers respond to their mandate and whether they can clear all the polling places could be key to the success or failure of the referendum. "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," says a father at a primary school in Barcelona. "I won't resist, but they will have to carry me out."