Hundreds Injured After Spanish Police Use Force To Stop Catalan Referendum

Hundreds of people in the Catalonia region of Spain have been injured after law enforcement authorities moved to quash a referendum on Catalan independence.

BBC reports as many as 761 people have been hurt, after national police employed force to stop voters from participating in what Spain’s constitutional court deemed an illegal vote.

Confronting footage from regional capital Barcelona and surrounding cities shows shows police beating protesters and would-be voters with batons. Armed police were also filmed firing rubber bullets into packed crowds.

Heads up: the footage is confronting.

In some areas, Catalan firefighters worked to protect protesters from the paramilitary Guardia Civil forces. Those federal police were deployed after regional law enforcement authorities were accused of not closing the illegal polling centres.

FC Barcelona, which usually plays in front of eighty thousand fans, played behind closed doors in protest of what club president Josep Bartomeu called an “exceptional and unacceptable situation.”

Catalonia, which has a distinct language and culture, has maintained a level of autonomy from the central Spanish government for decades. Catalonian authorities intended the vote to be a democratic method of moving towards total independence.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said that if a “Yes” vote was recorded, the region would move towards independence within 48 hours.

However, the referendum had already been deemed constitutionally invalid by the Spanish courts. After the vote’s stated deadline, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that no referendum had taken place, and reiterated that the vote was invalid under Spanish law.

The violence has drawn some condemnation from other European states, with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel saying “violence can never be the answer!”

Tensions are expected to remain high, and the push for sovereignty is unlikely to stop here.