Police Crackdown as Catalans Vote for Independence

catalonia independence vote

The independence vote in Catalonia on Sunday was marred by chaos as Spanish police cracked down hard and brutal on the referendum, storming buildings all across Catalonia and seizing ballot boxes in order to prevent people from voting.

89% of those who voted, i.e. 2,2 million Catalans, or 42% of the population ( there are 5.3 million registered voters in Catalonia) said Yes to independence in a referendum declared illegal by Spanish authorities. Almost 900 people were injured in fights and clashes all across Catalonia, while world leaders condemned the violent crackdown after images and videos surfaced on social media depicting police officers dressed in riot gear stamping on protesters. Here are a couple of videos via Twitter:

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Sky’s Europe Correspondent Mark Stone described his personal experience during the referendum, i.e. he had seen with his own eyes how voters were pulled out by their hair from polling stations and brutalized by Spanish police, not to mention the same Spanish police shooting rubber bullets at protesters, despite the fact this is a banned procedure in Catalonia.

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However, despite the reports claiming police violence, Spain’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis was quoted as saying that nothing extraordinary had happened during Catalonia’s illegal independence vote.

“I don’t agree with you that this is an extraordinary level of violence.

“You may think people were peacefully exercising their right to vote but the problem is this so-called referendum had been held to be illegal by the constitutional court.”

Catalonia has approximately 13% of Spain’s population but it generates about 40% of the country’s GDP. The Catalan president Carles Puigdemont declared the Sunday referendum a landslide victory and said that Catalonia has won the right to become an independent state.

The violent police response on Sunday will only fuel Catalans’ desire to become independent from Spain. The regional government of Catalonia has vowed to officially declare independence within the next 2 days. However, the Spanish government will not recognize the illegal referendum, as the country’s Constitution states that Spain is indivisible while Spain’s Constitutional Court and Madrid have the ultimate power to suspend Catalonia’s regional government authority if they try to declare independence.

Basically, Madrid could have allowed the referendum to take place peacefully and declare it illegal afterwards, as only a minority of Catalans really support independence, though a majority would like to hold a referendum on the issue. The thing is, Spain’s central government acted very stupid on this one.

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Photo: AP