EUPHORIC crowds in Catalunya Square, in the early hours of Monday, celebrated a conclusive Catalan victory in the “independence” referendum, despite a day of police violence.
Preliminary results, revealed by Regional Government spokesperson Jordi Turull, suggested that 90% of the 2.26 million counted ballots, from 5.3m registered voters, were in favour, with more to come from Catalans overseas.
Supporters, descending on the Square, drunk beer, sang traditional Catalonian songs and danced into the night.
The comprehensive victory proved even sweeter for the Catalans, who faced unprecedented violence at the hands of the Spanish National Police and Guardia Civil throughout the day.
The Catalan Department of Health revealed that up to 900 people were injured by the sometimes-brutal officers. Two supporters, seriously injured, were receiving treatment in a Barcelona hospital, while some 140 police officers were also reported to have suffered minor injuries.
Carles Puigdemont, Regional Leader of Catalunya, condemned the violence, saying: “On this day of hope and suffering, Catalunya’s citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic.
Helicopters flew over the area where his vote was cast, and some 50 officers with riot shields were stationed around the local sports centre. A video even showed a Guardia Civil riot squad smashing the door of his polling station, a school, with axes and batons. After the raid, one officer went to another school to cast his vote!
But Puigdemont stood firm, pledging later: “My government will send the total number of “Si” votes to the Catalan Parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum.”
Much-criticised Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused to acknowledge that the referendum had even taken place, and, thus, ruled the result invalid.
“There was no independence referendum in Catalunya today,” he said, curiously, in a statement on Sunday night, following the violence and bloodshed.
He also defended Spain as “a mature democracy and a great nation”, adding: “We have done what we had to do… we are the government of Spain and I am the Prime Minister of Spain.
“My main duty as PM is to obey the law and enforce it, and today, we all have reasons for trusting democracy.”
Rajoy “hoped” that Catalan leaders would give up their separatist goals and get back to political normality. But he failed to offer any specific ideas, or announce any new measures, to contain the problem.
Even more ludicrous, knowing that thousands of riot police left several hundred people injured, Rajoy said the Spanish state had reacted with “firmness and serenity”.
He boasted: “We have been an example for the world. Together, we have built, and will continue to build, a full democracy.”
The PM, who also blamed Puigdemont for Sunday’s appalling behaviour, added: “Those responsible are those who have promoted this illegality… don’t look for any other suspects.”
The State prosecution has threatened Catalonia’s police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, with disciplinary action for not shutting those schools in which voting was taking place, and where youngsters were pushed around by riot cops.
And the State, resorting to desperate measures to stop the vote, blocked all IT programmes and websites set up for online-voting and ballot-counting. Puigdemont set up new ones, but these were taken off-line just as quickly.
New ballot boxes were stored in a church overnight to prevent them from being seized, as others had been.
Primary and high schools were occupied throughout the previous night by teachers, parents and pupils of every age, from three to 18. They barricaded themselves in, to make sure they could open up on Sunday morning as polling stations, given that the usual venues were surrounded by armed police.
The most aggressive police raids took place at Barcelona’s Ramón Llull school, and in another primary school at Sant Julià de Ramis, in the Girona province.
Among the members of the public injured, one person, at the Ramón Llull, was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet, while a man in his fifties, in Lleida’s Mariola neighbourhood, suffered a heart attack when officers burst into the building.
He was in cardiac arrest when paramedics found him, but they were able to restart his heart. He was admitted to Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebrón hospital.
At least 12,000 police officers appeared on the streets across Catalonia’s four provinces of the region (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona).
But officers from the Mossos merely handed notices of fines to protesters and left, applauded by the crowds as they did so.
In Barcelona, police armed with hammers to break down doors, if necessary, to enable them to seize ballot boxes, were trapped in a school building after demonstrators blocked off their parked vans.
Guardia Civil officers were stoned by members of the public In La Ràpita.
Officers struggled with voters and protesters of all ages, and several images of old ladies injured, or being dragged away, and of people with bloodied faces, were published.
National Police riot officers fired rubber bullets in central Barcelona, then used their vehicles to escape by charging a crowd of protesters. Several photographers in the immediate area were also attacked.
Juan Ignacio Zoido, the Spanish Government’s Home Secretary, described the vote as “a sham” and the National Police and Guardia Civil response as “proportionate and professional”.
But Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias described the events as, “batons, shoving, dragging old ladies. What the PP is doing to our democracy repulses me. They are corrupt, hypocrites. Useless!”
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said: “Spanish democracy is at stake now. Most of us Catalans are against the separatist coup.”
And Barcelona Mayor Ada Colaus called Rajoy “a coward” for using the police to stop the Catalan vote.
The controversial issue has escalated rapidly since Sunday, with a strike on Tuesday, more mass protests, and some 50 roads and motorway blockade across the region.
The same evening, Spain’s King Felipe made a stern TV statement to the nation, condemning Catalan separatist leaders and promising all Spaniards that the Crown would uphold the rule of Law and Constitution to defend their rights.
Spain’s leading stock index fell 2.85% on Wednesday, the Sabadell and Caixaban banks, and Catalunya real-estate company Inmobiliaria Colonial, heading the falls.
That evening, Puigdemont made his own statement, half in Catalan and half in Spanish, in response to the King’s statement.
He described the last few days as “especially intense and charged with emotion… the people of Catalonia are united, as one people, and come together to defend the values of democracy.”
Puigdemont even reprimanded the King for his remarks, saying he had “lost an opportunity to address all of the citizens” of the Crown.
He added: “I would like to address His Majesty directly, in a language I know he knows and speaks [Catalan]: not like that.”
Incidentally, Catalonia’s economic output is worth around one-fifth of Spain’s total gross domestic product (GDP), and the region’s economy is healthy.
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