In Brief

Catalonia: 90% back independence on day of violence

At least 800 were injured in violent clashes with police during yesterday’s independence referendum

Catalan officials say more than 90% of people who voted in yesterday’s referendum, deemed illegal by the government in Madrid, expressed a desire to break free from Spain.

The referendum, and the violence that accompanied it, “sent shock waves through Europe”, says  The Times. “One protester lost an eye to a rubber bullet and elderly voters were seen with blood streaming from head wounds.”

As well as rubber bullets, riot police used batons and were seen dragging voters from polling stations by their hair. Catalonia’s regional leader, Carles Puigdemont, said “police brutality will shame the Spanish state for ever”.

He added: “On this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia’s citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic.”

Jordi Turull, Catalan regional government spokesman, said only 8% of those who voted were opposed to independence, while 2% of ballots cast were either blank or void.

A total of 2.26 million votes were cast, representing a turnout of 43%. Voters in favour of maintaining links with the rest of Spain were expected to boycott the vote. 

Turull said the published numbers do not include ballots that were seized by Spanish police during raids on polling booths in which at least 800 people were injured, three seriously.

“Catalan authorities said 319 of about 2,300 polling stations across the region had been closed by police, while the Spanish government said 92 stations had been closed,” the BBC reports. However, the BBC’s correspondent in Barcelona said all figures should be treated with caution following the chaotic scenes.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy denounced the ballot and praised the police actions.

“Today there has not been a self-determination referendum in Catalonia,” he said. “The rule of law remains in force with all its strength. We are the government of Spain and I am the head of the government of Spain and I accepted my responsibility.”

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