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Schools call on citizens to ensure polling stations remain open on referendum day

A website was launched where people can register for mobilizations “whenever necessary” 

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27 September 2017 05:39 PM

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ACN | Rachel Bathgate

The Catalan educational community is taking very real steps to ensure that citizens be able to vote on October 1. A new website has been opened, called Open Schools, or Escoles Obertes, a project that aims to make the image of crowds lined up to vote in front of the ballot boxes into a reality. Indeed, it also acts as a demonstration against the planned shutting down and guarding of schools and other polling stations, and in favor of democracy.

Police to seal off polling stations and block entry

The movement was born in light of Spain’s announcement that it’s taking control of the Catalan Police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, with the planned order that the police seal off sites to be used as polling stations with a perimeter of 100 meters. Additionally, the law enforcement officers are to investigate anyone who manages to get inside.

Find a polling station

The Open School website has two main functions: the first, to provide those who are interested with their nearest polling station, as divided by police precinct. It also allows citizens to sign up to “open their schools,” to give them a chance to participate. According to the website, 6,000 people have already given their email. While it remains unclear just how this participation will take place, the organization has also listed some instructions for those who have given their email. 

  • "The image of a sealed off center is terrible and an ignominious spectacle"
    Josep Maria Cervelló · Spokesperson for the Open Schools project

Bring water, food, and prepare for instructions

The organization reminds those who sign up to follow “official sources” and “avoid rumors.” During the process, they urge the people involved to stay “serene, calm, and festive.” Additionally, should it be necessary, they remind participants to “wear comfortable clothes” and to bring “water, food” for the day. Indeed, those who wish to participate should be “prepared to receive specific instructions to be sent in the next few days.” Yet, the nature of these specific instructions remains largely unsaid.

Still, Open Schools has published a manifesto on their page to express their intentions. They begin it by stating that “education is one of the basic pillars of democracy” and that schools are indeed the “meeting point for these values” that strengthen society. Because of this, the educational community announces its intention to stand in “the defense of democracy.”

Do what they do every day: open

The plan is simple, according to the entity – it simply intends to mobilize by “doing what it does every day: open their centers.” Indeed, the highest goal for the Open Schools project is normalcy, by ensuring that next Sunday, all Catalans will be able to go to polling stations to freely express their opinion.

This, in defense of “freedom of expression,” a liberty which the educational community stats is, today, “incomprehensibly threatened.” Faced with this, the writers of the manifesto state, they “cannot remain impassive.”

Foreseen problems of public order

The spokesperson for the Open Schools project, Josep Maria Cervelló, said that under no circumstances were they seeking "collision" with the police. Instead, he claims that they’re working so that, this Sunday, schools can be used as polling stations as planned. Cervelló noted that the police themselves have foreseen “public order” problems following the potential actions to seal off polling stations.

A massive and peaceful mobilization in light of an ignominious spectacle

The spokesperson stated that, to him, the image of a sealed off center is “terrible” and part of an “ignominious spectacle.”  Still, Cervelló stated that he trusted in the “good judgement” of the participants that choose to attend.

According to Cervelló, each educational community is in charge of evaluating and choosing the possible organization of concerts, closures or other activities to ensure that the center is open for the October 1 referendum. Ultimately, Cervelló emphasized, Open Schools aims to achieve a "massive and peaceful" mobilization, one that will act as a demonstration against the intended shutting down of the schools by the Prosecutor’s Office. 

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  • Group photo of the organizers of the Open Schools project to guarantee the polls remain open for the October 1 referendum vote

  • Group photo of the organizers of the Open Schools project to guarantee the polls remain open for the October 1 referendum vote