SPANISH cops have fired rubber bullets and beat people with batons as they tried to disperse crowds gathering to vote in Catalonia’s independence referendum.
Police also forcibly dragged people out of polling stations as they tried to vote in a democratic action described by the Spanish government in Madrid as “illegal”.
— Michael Stothard (@MStothard) October 1, 2017
— Albert Velasco (@velasc_alberto) October 1, 2017
— Àlex Tort (@alextortsagues) October 1, 2017
The people being hit by police did not come out to protest or riot, they are trying to enter a polling location. pic.twitter.com/t0Qd4orAxq
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) October 1, 2017
An officer in the Port Fienc neighbourhood was seen jumping into a crowd of sitting protesters with a kick before colleagues threw other voters down the stairs.
Earlier in the morning authorities began seizing ballot boxes and voting papers.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, addressing a cheering crowd in a gym hall that was used as a polling station until it was raided by police. said that that “police brutality [seen today] will shame the Spanish state forever”.
He had intended to vote at the Sant Julia e Ramis polling station until it was visited by cops and was forced to vote somewhere else in Barcelona.
He added: “Today, the Spanish state has lost much more than what it had already lost, while Catalonia has won.”
The regional government said voting was taking place in 73% of approximately 6,000 polling stations today and that 38 people have been injured so far, according to the emergency services.
Jordi Turull, a spokesman for the regional administration, called for Catalans to remain calm and patient but to defend “in a civic and peaceful manner” their right to vote.
He added that “the world has seen the violence of the Spanish state,” calling actions by the police as “repression that is a reminder of the Franco era”.
He made the comment in reference to Spain’s dictatorship from 1939-1975 under the autocracy of General Francisco Franco.
He said the Spanish government’s representative to Catalonia, Enric Millo, should resign over the way the police crackdown has been handled.
Dozens of police used riot shields to push people back as would-be voters were heard chanting “we are people of peace” and “we are not afraid”.
Half a dozen armoured police vans and an ambulance were stationed near to a polling station in Barcelona.
Images shared online showed a middle-aged man and two women bleeding after riot police arrived.
The papers were going to be used at polling stations in the eastern Spanish region in a vote the national government has described as “illegal”.
Catalonia’s TV3 showed ballot boxes and voting papers ready for use at one polling station in a Barcelona suburb.
La Vanguardia newspaper reported that the first ballot boxes had arrived in several voting centres.
Voting was due to start 7am GMT (9am local time) this morning.
Some votes have already been cast in more rural parts of the northeastern region.
The Catalan government said regional president Carles Puigdemont had cast his ballot at a polling station later raided by police.
Competing demonstrations have taken place over the last few days with both sides out in a show of force.
Pro-Spain protesters were encouraged not to participate in the vote to prevent giving it legitimacy.
Pro-Catalan demonstrators were arrested after holding a noisy protest using saucepans to protest the crackdown Madrid had threatened.