Supporters of Catalan independence began occupying polling stations on Friday, setting up a possible confrontation with police who have been ordered to clear them out by Sunday morning to ensure a referendum cannot go ahead.

The central government, which has sent thousands of police reinforcements to stop people voting and has attempted to dismantle the infrastructure needed to conduct the referendum it says is illegal, insisted it would not go ahead.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told Reuters in an interview, however: “Everything is prepared at the more than 2,000 voting points so they have ballot boxes and voting slips, and have everything people need to express their opinion.”

Bands played at a closing rally for the referendum campaign in Barcelona where people constructed the slogan “Referendum is democracy” in big white letters on a stage in front of a cheering crowd, many draped in the red-and-yellow Catalan flag.

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