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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish riot police smashed their way into Catalan polling stations Sunday to try to halt a disputed referendum on independence, firing rubber bullets and attacking voters who were trying to stop them from confiscating ballots. The daylong melee injured at least 460 civilians and 11 police, authorities said.
Police were acting on orders from the Spanish government to stop the voting, which Spain’s Constitutional Court had declared illegal.
Dispute - Independence - Vote - Catalonia - Region
The dispute over the independence vote in Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region of 7.5 million people, has plunged Spain into a constitutional crisis. Spain’s violent crackdown on the vote — videos showed police roughing up voters — appeared likely only to harden positions on both sides.
At the Pau Claris School in Barcelona, footage by one voter showed police aggressively removing people blocking their way, in one case dragging a person by the hair and in other cases pushing them down a flight of stairs.
People - Police - People - Dogs - Girls
The people seen in videos being hit, kicked and thrown around by police included elderly people with their dogs, young girls and regular citizens of all stripes. Many tried to shield themselves from being smacked on the head. Some people were screaming in fear.
It’s still unclear is how many of the region’s 5.3 million voters were able to turn out Sunday, how their votes would be counted, how many votes have confiscated already by police and what happens next if the separatist officials who run the region’s government declare independence based on the vote.
Catalan - Officials - Blame - Chaos - Voting
Spanish and Catalan officials traded blame for the chaos even as the voting continued Sunday afternoon.
“Police brutality will shame forever the Spanish state,” independence-minded Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said as crowds cheered.
Deputy - Minister - Soraya - Saenz - Santamaria
Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said police acted with “firmness and proportionality” and accused the Catalan government of gross irresponsibility in...
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