Catalonia: Clashes between voters, police amid controversial independence vote

Thousands of Catalans gathered outside the improvised polling stations Sunday morning, hoping that the Spanish police would let them hold the disputed independence vote. However, clashes quickly broke out between voters and police who started to seize voting slips and ballot boxes.
Police against voters in Barcelona Photo Credit: Sky News/Channel 2 News

As the polls opened across Catalonia Sunday morning, clashes erupted between voters and Spanish police in several locations when the latter started to confiscate voting slips and ballot boxes. In Barcelona, the capital of the region, police officers are preparing to raid a polling booth in which dozens of Catalans have barricaded themselves.

Thousands of Catalans spent the night in the schools that are being used as polling booths for the vote, which has been declared illegal by the Spanish government. The organizers at a voting station in Barcelona instructed the voters who gathered outside the school to passively resist when the police arrive. The Spanish government announced that most of the schools have been shut down and that the police will evacuate anyone who tries to vote.

Although Spain’s highest court labeled the referendum as unconstitutional, the leaders of the Catalan independence movement announced earlier today that the vote would proceed as planned and called on the millions of eligible voters to head to the polls.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to arrive at the more than 2,300 improvised polling stations in order to make their voice heard about the controversial matter. “I woke up early because my country needs me,” said a 65-year-old retiree who was waiting in line with about a hundred people in Barcelona early this morning in order to vote.

“I hope I can vote today,” said Rosario, a 56-year-old Barcelona resident who slept outside of a school ahead of the vote. “I plan to vote in favor of democracy and for the benefit of the future, which will hopefully be a lot better with lots of quietness and peace. This is what we want. We want to vote, nothing more than that.”

Catalonia is a region in Spain that is rich in its own culture and language. It is responsible for about 20 percent of the country’s economy. According to the latest polls ahead of today’s vote, the results of the referendum will show that the overwhelming majority of Catalans are in favor of independence. However, most of the Catalans who oppose the idea of independence are not expected to participate in the referendum.

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