Sunday’s Catalan independence referendum turned chaotic as police and voters clashed. Police attempted to stop the voting from happening, as Spain’s constitutional court declared the referendum illegal. They prevented people from entering the polling places. They also took ballot papers and boxes.
The Spanish government declared that it is going to halt the poll. Catalan’s regional authorities said that about 337 have been injured so far. The Interior Ministry said two members of the Guardia Civil and nine police officers have been injured in the clash.
Protests erupted in Barcelona. The deputy mayor of Barcelona reported that police fired rubber bullets and used batons on protesters who are pro-referendum.
The action of the police officers was condemned by CarlesPuigdemont, a Catalan leader. The government sent Guardia Civil and the national police to Catalonia in an attempt to stop the referendum. He told reporters that despite the government’s action, the will of the people of Catalan would not stop.
On the other hand, the events of the day were labeled senseless by Juan Ignacio Zoido, the Spanish Interior Minister. He also blamed Puigdemont for what happened.
The Guardia Civil even used social media in their defense. They tweeted that they were carrying their duties to defend the law while resisting provocation and harassment.
Spain’s Vice President SorayaSáenz de Santamaría said in a press conference on Sunday that the violence was due to Catalan’s rush to hold the referendum that Spain deems unconstitutional. She said that the authorities were sent to Catalonia not to harm the Catalans but only to gather all the materials related to the referendum. Still, she said that the Catalan government acted irresponsibly by recklessly using old people and children.
Cause for referendum
Only one question is in the referendum ballot. It is asking Catalonians if they want to be an independent state and form a republic. The ballot also contains boxes for ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
Catalonia is a wealthy region in the northeast. It has a regional government (Generalitat) and oversees the region’s tax collection, education and healthcare. It pays taxes to Madrid but the redistribution of tax revenues is unfair to wealthy areas such as Catalonia, with the region’s revenues subsidizing other areas in the country.
So the nationalists in Catalonia want their region to become a separate nation, arguing that they have their own language, culture and history. They have been trying to separate from Spain since 2010.
Catalonia wants to break away from Spain for several reasons. It is home to 16% of the country’s population. The region hosts 20.7% of foreign investment, produces 19% of the country’s GDP and is responsible for 25.6% of the country’s exports.
Catalonia has 5.3 million registered voters. Although some polling stations were shut down, 4,661 (73%) stations remained open. They will close on Sunday, 8 p.m. local time and the results are expected around 10 p.m. local time.
The Catalan Football Federation and FC Barcelona requested the suspension of their match on Sunday evening against Las Palmas from the Spanish football league because of events earlier in the day.