[WATCH] Spanish police injure 337 as Catalans defy government ban on referendum

Voting started on Sunday morning in a referendum banned by both the Spanish government and the country’s constitutional court

1 October 2017, 9:48am
Last updated on 1 October 2017, 3:31pm
Hundreds have been injured in a Spanish government crackdown on a Catalan Independence referendum
Hundreds have been injured in a Spanish government crackdown on a Catalan Independence referendum
Up to 337 people have been injured in a police crackdown on a referendum on Catalonian independence held today across the region, according to a Catalan government official.

The government official said that while most of the sustained injuries were relatively minor, some had sustained serious injuries, but stopped short of disclosing more details, “out of respect to their relatives”.

Eyewitnesses have described a “mini revolution” taking place with a number of establishments having to close down because of the violence.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Spanish government to end “shocking police violence”, while Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has also spoken out against the violence, and calling for political dialogue.  

Catalonia is a wealthy region of around 7.5 million people in north-eastern Spain having its own language and culture, as well as a high degree of autonomy.

It is however not recognised as a separate nation under Spain’s constitution, resulting in increasing pressure for the for an independence vote picking up in recent years.

The country’s Prime Minister on the other hand, has insisted that the vote would go against the country’s constitution. In fact, Spain’s constitutional court, as well as the government itself, had declared the referendum to be illegitimate, and call for it not to take place.

Despite the government’s orders however, region pushed through with the referendum, with thousands of Catalans going to the polls on Sunday morning.

As the polls opened, the Spanish interior ministry said that police have begun seizing ballot papers and boxes, in a move to enforce the court ruling. Thousands of police have been sent to Catalonia by the Madrid government, amid reports of riot police pushing prospective voters away from a polling station in Barcelona.

The referendum has thrown Spain into a major constitutional crisis, the worst in decades. Polls show that around 40 percent of Catalans support independence, but a majority are in favour of a referendum on the matter.