1, October 2017
Hundreds of people in Catalonia have been injured in violent clashes with police in the wake of a controversial referendum held in Spain’s autonomous region on seceding from the European country.
Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, said in a statement on Sunday afternoon that disturbances across Catalonia earlier in the day had left over 460 people injured. Injuries came after riot police, with full gear, clashed with pro-independence people who had convened in front of the polling stations.
“As mayor of Barcelona I demand an immediate end to police charges against the defenseless population,” Colau said in the statement.
In a separate statement, the Catalan health service raised the number of wounded to 465, with two people in critical condition at hospital.
Reports said police responded to assembled voters in Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, with rubber pellets and batons. The violence occurred shortly after police seized ballots and ballot boxes from the Ramon Lull School polling station. The move prompted the voters to chant pro-independence and anti-Madrid slogans, which led to a violent confrontation. Police reportedly broke down doors to force entry into polling stations as people chanted, “Out with the occupying forces!” Over five million people are expected to have cast their votes in 2,315 polling stations across the northeastern region, with more than 200 stations in Barcelona alone.
Despite a police crackdown, long crowded queues of people formed in cities and villages throughout Catalonia to cast their votes. However, it remained unclear what action Catalonia’s separatist government might take.
The Spanish government says the referendum is illegal and the country’s Constitutional Court has ordered the vote suspended. Separatist regional leaders pledged to hold it anyway and called on the 5.3 million “eligible” voters to show up for the poll.
In order to halt the vote, Madrid had increased pressure on Catalan officials over the past week. It also deployed thousands of extra police from across the country to Catalonia to stop the vote.
On September 20, Spain’s military police raided the Catalan government offices, during which at least 14 junior officials and associates were arrested and almost 10 million ballot papers were seized.
Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, held a symbolic referendum back in November 2014, during which more than 80 percent of participants voted for independence, according to Catalan officials.