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Catalan referendum: Voting begins amid police crackdown

Published: October 01, 2017 15:58:56 | Updated: October 22, 2017 18:44:01


Catalonia’s independence referendum has begun in chaotic fashion, with clashes taking place as police attempt to prevent the vote from taking place, according to BBC.

The Spanish government has pledged to stop a poll that was declared illegal by the country’s constitutional court.

Police officers are preventing people from voting, and seizing ballot papers and boxes at polling stations.

Nonetheless, Catalan government officials have predicted a big turnout.

The ballot papers contain just one question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” There are two boxes: Yes or No.

Ahead of the polls opening, the Catalan government said voters could print off their own ballot papers and use any polling station if their designated voting place was shut.

In the town of Girona, riot police smashed their way into a polling station where the region’s leader Carles Puigdemont was due to vote.

Television footage showed them breaking the glass of the sports centre’s entrance door and forcibly removing those attempting to vote.

However, Reuters news agency reports that Mr Puigdemont was still able to cast his ballot.

Meanwhile, in the regional capital Barcelona, witnesses said police fired rubber projectiles at pro-independence protesters.

Reports say at least two people have been injured during clashes in the city.

Thousands of separatist supporters had occupied schools and other buildings that have been designated as voting centres ahead of the polls opening.

Many of those inside were parents and their children, who remained in the buildings after the end of lessons on Friday and bedded down in sleeping bags on gym mats.

In some areas, farmers positioned tractors on roads and in front of polling station doors, and school gates were taken away to make it harder for the authorities to seal buildings off.

But police insisted polling stations would not be allowed to open, and that those inside would be evicted.

Referendum organisers have called for peaceful resistance to any police action.

Thousands of extra police officers have been sent to the region, many of them based on two ships in the port of Barcelona.

The Spanish government has put policing in Catalonia under central control and ordered the regional force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, to help enforce the ban on the illegal referendum.

In a show of force ahead of the poll, Spanish authorities seized voting materials, imposed fines on top Catalan officials and temporarily detained dozens of politicians.

Police have also occupied the regional government’s telecommunications centre.

Nonetheless, Catalan government officials have predicted a big turnout.

The ballot papers contain just one question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” There are two boxes: Yes or No.

Ahead of the polls opening, the Catalan government said voters could use any polling station if their designated voting place was shut.

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