Posted by on October 1, 2017 11:47 am
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Categories: AFP Autonomous communities of Spain Carles Puigdemont Catalan government Catalan independence Catalan independence movement Catalan nationalism Catalan police Catalan self-determination referendum Catalonia Catalonian Catalonian Fire Service Economy European Union Generalitat de Catalunya Geography of Europe Independence referendum Labour Party Nationalisms and regionalisms of Spain Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics Politics of Catalonia Professional Football League regional government regional government’s authority regional police Spain's Constitutional Court Spanish constitutional crisis Spanish government Spanish police War

Update (12:30 pm ET): Clashes between riot police and voters in Barcelona and other towns and cities across Catalonia have left hundreds injured as police beat peaceful demonstrators with sticks and fired rubber bullets into crowds. The clashes, which have been well-documented by journalists and members of the public, are resulting in a massive public embarassment for the government in Madrid, as photos of elderly Catalonian pensioners with blood streaming down their faces have flooded the internet.

According to the Catalonian health ministry, 465 people have been injured during today’s demonstrations, including at least nine local police officers and three Civil Guard officers. Here’s a breakdown via the Guardian: 216 were hurt in Barcelona, 80 in Girona, 64 in Lleida, 53 in Terres de l’Ebre, 27 in Catalunya central and 25 in Tarragona.

Despite the crackdown, the Guardian reports that the majority of polling stations in the province have remained open. Spanish national police have closed down 46 in total (27 in Barcelona, six in Tarragona, six in Girona and seven in Lleida). The Guardia Civil have closed another 46 (14 in Barcelona, 12 in Tarragona, eight in Girona and 12 in Lleida). Catalan police, the Mossos, say they have closed 244 polling stations across Catalonia. In total, 336 polling stations have been shuttered. To put this in context, the Catalan government said more than 2,000 polling stations were set up across the province for the referendum. Meanwhile, the Spanish government said that three people, including one girl, have been arrested for civil disobedience and attacking officers.

The shocking photos have provoked widespread condemnation. In the UK, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Prime Minister Theresa May to urge Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy to end the crackdown.

A solidarity march with Catalonia is taking place outside the European Union offices in Edinburgh.

All elements of Catalonian society have pitched in to try and protect voters from brutal police tactics. This video emerged showing Catalonian firemen being beaten with sticks by the police.

The Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has demanded that the government in Madrid put an end to the violence.

According to the FT, police confiscated voting papers and ballot boxes in Barcelona and elsewhere and fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds at the Ramon Llull school in Barcelona, a polling station in the city.. However, elsewhere in Catalonia, voting was carried out peacefully with the 17,000-strong local police force apparently being less interventionist in stopping the polling at certain stations. Since there is no electoral commission overseeing the referendum, little authoritative information was immediately available on the turnout for the vote and how it complied with normal standards. Police were ordered to shut down the region’s electronic vote-counting system earlier in the week, meaning it could be a while before the results start coming in.

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Update (10:30 am ET): The number of people injured in clashes between pro-independence voters and riot police dispatched to the restive region by the government in Madrid has climbed to 337, including at least 11 police officers, the Daily Star reports.

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Update (10 am ET): In a statement condeming the Spanish government’s efforts to stamp out the “free expression” of the Catalan people, FC Barcelona announced that it will be playing today’s match against Las Palmas, its first of the season, behind closed doors after the Professional Football League refused to postpone it.

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Update (9:15 am ET): So far, Catalonian emergency services says that 91 people have been injured in violent clashes between Catalonians trying to vote in today’s “illegal” independence, according to AFP.

Among the injured, 11 are police officers.

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In scenes one would expect to see in Turkey, or some token third-world dictatorship, on Sunday morning Spanish riot police violently cracked down on the scheduled Catalan independence referendum, smashing their way into polling stations in Catalonia in a dramatic quest to shut down the banned Catalan independence referendum, as they fired rubber bullets and brutally beat peaceful people trying to vote for or against independence from a Spanish government, which many commentators this morning have called “fascist.”

Police fired rubber bullets in central Barcelona, El Periodico newspaper reported, at the intersection of two streets as violence erupted during the vote which has thrown Spain into its worst constitutional crisis for decades.

According to Reuters, Catalan emergency services said at least 38 people were hurt as a result of police action, although as the footage below shows the final number will likely be orders of magnitude greater. 

As Conflicts creator Gissur Simonarson said, “Looking at the footage from Spain. It’s clear the policy got an order to break this up by any means. They are tossing ppl like rag dolls” adding that “The Spanish government has managed to turn me from indifferent/against #CatalanReferendum to a supporter.”

Police burst into the polling station in a town in Girona province minutes before Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was due to vote there. They smashed glass panels to force open the door as voters, fists in the air, sang the Catalan anthem.

Officers with riot shields jostled with hundreds of voters outside one station at a school in Barcelona as the crowd chanted “We are people of peace!” Armored vans and an ambulance were parked nearby.

The referendum has been declared illegal by Spain’s central government in Madrid, which says the constitution states the country is indivisible and has drafted in thousands of police from around Spain into Catalonia to prevent the vote.

The Catalan regional government had scheduled voting to open at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) at around 2,300 stations, but Madrid said on Saturday it had shut more than half of them.  Voting started at some sites in the region of 7.5 million people, which has its own language and culture and is an industrial hub with an economy larger than that of Portugal. Leader Puigdemont changed plans and voted at a different station after the police action, the regional government said.

As Reuters adds, people had occupied some stations with the aim of preventing police from locking them down. Organizers smuggled in ballot boxes before dawn and urged voters to use passive resistance against police. In a school used as a polling station in Barcelona, police in riot gear carried out ballot boxes while would-be voters chanted “out with the occupying forces!” and “we will vote!”.

The Catalan government said voters could print out ballot papers at home and lodge them at any polling station not closed down by police.

“I have got up early because my country needs me,” said Eulalia Espinal, 65, a pensioner who started queuing with around 100 others outside one polling station, a Barcelona school, in rain at about 5 a.m. “We don’t know what’s going to happen but we have to be here,” she said.

A minority of around 40 percent of Catalans support independence, polls show, although a majority want to hold a referendum on the issue. A “yes” result is likely in the referendum, given most of those who support independence are expected to cast ballots while most of those against it are not. 

Furthermore, the ballot will have no legal status as it has been blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court and Madrid has the ultimate power under its 1978 charter to suspend the regional government’s authority to rule if it declares independence. In other words, Madrid could have led the referendum pass, declared it illegal, and soon most would forget. Instead, as Simonarson adds, “I’m shocked and disgusted by how Spain has dealt with #CatalanReferendum. If there isn’t a violent response to this, I’ll be shocked.”

Organizers had asked voters to turn out before dawn, hoping for large crowds to be the world’s first image of voting day.

“This is a great opportunity. I’ve waited 80 years for this,” said 92-year-old Ramon Jordana, a former taxi driver waiting to vote in Sant Pere de Torello, a town in the foothills of the Pyrenees and a pro-independence bastion. He had wrapped his wrists in Catalan flags, among 100-150 people who gathered at a local school that had been listed as a polling station, ready to block any police from entering. A tractor also stood guard, though no police had yet arrived.

As reported before, leading up to the referendum Spanish police arrested Catalan officials, seized campaigning leaflets and occupied the Catalan government’s communications hub. But Catalan leaders urged voters to turn out in a peaceful expression of democracy. Families have occupied scores of schools earmarked as voting centers, sleeping overnight in an attempt to prevent police from sealing them off.

“If I can’t vote, I want to turn out in the streets and say sincerely that we want to vote,” said independence supporter Jose Miro, a 60-year-old schools inspector. Only the Catalan police, or Mossos d‘Esquadra, had so far been monitoring polling stations. They are held in affection by Catalans, especially after they hunted down Islamists accused of staging deadly attacks in the region in August.

But national police, who have been drafted into Catalonia in their thousands, stepped in to grab ballot boxes and close stations on Sunday once it became clear the regional police was not clearing sites.

Pro-independence Puigdemont originally said that if the “yes” vote won, the Catalan government would declare independence within 48 hours, but regional leaders have since acknowledged Madrid’s crackdown has undermined the vote.

Perhaps now it is time for the liberal press to explain how sometimes democracy also dies in broad daylight. And while we await to see how this dramatic crackdown against democracy ends, here are some more shocking videos of Spain’s brutal crackdown on democracy.

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