Firefighters have been filmed standing in front of crowds to protect them from riot police as a human shield.
Catalonia has been rocked by scenes of violence as people head to the polls to vote in an independence referendum which the country’s government says is illegal.
Metro online reports that Hundreds of people have been injured in clashes with police as officers close polling stations, seize ballot papers and try to prevent the vote taking place.
Shocking photos show people dragged forcibly away, including elderly people and young people, while rubber bullets have been fired into crowds.
(Picture: Ion Telleria Barrena/Naiz) Hundreds of people have been injured
Catalonia’s government spokesman said 337 people have been injured, some seriously, in the police crackdown. The region, which includes the cities of Barcelona and Girona, has its own language and many who live there want it to become its own republic and break away from Spain.
But Madrid refuses to recognise the validity of the referendum and has ordered police to close polling stations and seize ballot boxes. Barcelona’s mayor has called for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to step down in the wake of the violent police response.
Ada Colau says that ‘if this is a democracy, the police action should be stopped immediately so we can later have a dialogue, which is what is needed.’ The mayor was scheduled to vote at a secondary school, but wasn’t able to do it because police blocked access to the polling station.
Spanish Civil Guard officer pushes a man outside a polling station in Sant Julia de Ramis (Picture: Reuters)
Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont accused Spanish authorities of using ‘unjustified, disproportionate and irresponsible’ violence in a crackdown on a Catalan independence referendum on Sunday. The batons, rubber bullets and violence used by Spanish police had shown a ‘dreadful external image of Spain’, he told reporters. ‘The unjustified, disproportionate and irresponsible violence of the Spanish state today has not only failed to stop Catalans’ desire to vote … but has helped to clarify all the doubts we had to resolve today,’ he said.
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