Scores of polling station workers and voters alike have been injured in Catalonia as an official referendum on independence today was violently suppressed by the Spanish authorities in Madrid.
Rubber bullets were fired into crowds who had gathered to vote in Barcelona, a short distance from Gaudi’s iconic Sagrada Familia cathedral, while others were brutally clubbed in an attempt to clear the area.
Riot police smashed their way into polling stations across the state, including one where the regional leader was expected to vote in the independence referendum, and seized ballot boxes and voting materials.
Despite heavy censorship of Catalonian websites by the Madrid regime, images of young and old being dragged or beaten out of schools and community centres with bloodied faces and injured limbs were transmitted on social networks. Some elderly voters, who had been among the earliest to vote, required hospitalisation.
However, in many areas polling continued, albeit nervously. The authorities in Barcelona claimed that votes were being registered at more than 70% of polling locations, although anecdotal evidence suggested many voters had already been intimidated away from the polls by mid-morning.
A number of Irish politicians said the acts of oppression had brought shame to the Spanish state as well as to the EU authorities, who have given tactic approval to the action.
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson, who was an official observer to the independence referendum, said the international community had a responsibility to act to defend the democratic rights of the Catalan people.
She said she had “witnessed at first hand” the attempts by the Spanish authorities to deny people the right to vote, including “seizing ballot boxes, blocking access to polling stations and physical attacks on those queuing up to exercise their democratic right”.
She said these were “attacks on the democratic process and democracy itself”.
“If this was happening anywhere else in the world there would be international outrage,” she said.
“There is an onus on the international community, and the EU in particular, to speak out and to act to defend the fundamental democratic rights of the people of Catalonia.”