More Than 700 Injured as Spanish Police Try to Prevent Catalan Independence Vote
The Spanish government's "unjustified use of violence," says regional leader Carles Puigdemont, "will not stop the will of the Catalan people."
As of Sunday afternoon, more than 760 people were injured in Catalonia after Spanish police clashed with Catalan citizens who attempted to cast votes for the region's independence referendum, which Madrid has deemed unconstitutional, Reuters reports.
Despite the reports of violence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy praised the police force for its actions in Catalonia Sunday.
BREAKING: Spanish PM thanks police, says they acted with "firmness and serenity" to Catalonia's independence referendum.
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 1, 2017
Alarming photos and videos continued to circulate on social media into the evening:
Central govt reaction to Catalan referendum voters in girona. This is so wrong. pic.twitter.com/tscVlp5AJY
— Mackenzie klein (@JustMacKenzieK) October 1, 2017
— Ninja Economics (@NinjaEconomics) October 1, 2017
— Fortune (@FortuneMagazine) October 1, 2017
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 1, 2017
Catalan officials say Spanish police have injured more than 330 people who tried to vote during Catalonia's independence referendum on Sunday.
Madrid has declared the vote unconstitutional, but Catalan citizens and members of the regional government have vowed to move forward with it. In recent days they have protested by the thousands, and even occupied more than 160 local schools that were set to serve as polling stations, in attempts to avoid the national police's promise to prevent voting.
The BBC reports:
Police officers are preventing people from voting, and seizing ballot papers and boxes at polling stations. In the regional capital Barcelona, police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests.
Catalan emergency services said they had treated 38 people who were injured when police pushed back crowds of voters and forced their way into polling stations. The Spanish interior ministry said 11 police officers had been injured.
Catalan firefighters even battled with police officers on Sunday, trying to protect voters from the national police. Videos of their exchanges quickly circulated on Twitter:
Catalan firefighters defending voters from the Spanish police. Absolutely astonishing. pic.twitter.com/Gyb1qjN38J
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) October 1, 2017
As police continue to seize ballot materials, Catalan government officials are allowing voters to print their own ballot papers and use any open polling station if theirs is shut down. Ballot papers simply as voters "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?" and instruct them to check a box for "Yes" or "No."
The regional government leader Carles Puigdemont condemned violence by the national police and Guardia Civil, who were sent to Catalonia to help with Madrid's effort to stop the vote.
"The unjustified use of violence," Puigdemont said, "by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people."
Several public figures outside of Spain turned to social media on Sunday to condemn the violence:
Police violence against citizens in #Catalonia is shocking. The Spanish government must act to end it now.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 1, 2017
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 1, 2017
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) October 1, 2017
This is a huge story: major, violent repression of a peaceful, democratic movement by a western/NATO government. https://t.co/u9jS15LOrP
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 1, 2017
#CatalanReferendum Seems to me that Spain just gave the Catalan independence movement all the credibility it could hope for.
— David Simon (@AoDespair) October 1, 2017