Catalans assemble in polling stations defying police orders

Crowds are growing in Barcelona and towns across Catalonia at dozens of schools and other facilities designated as polling stations for a disputed referendum on the northeastern region's secession from Spain.

People began arriving before dawn to join parents, children and activists who have occupied the buildings, defying a judge's order to vacate before Sunday's polling is supposed to begin.

The country's Constitutional Court has suspended the referendum and the Spanish government says it's illegal. Regional separatist leaders have pledged to hold it anyway and called on 5.3 million eligible voters to show up for casting a ballot.

Separatist groups also told people to hold activities in schools over the weekend to dodge the orders to vacate. Police have been ordered to avoid the use of force.