BARCELONA, Spain — More than 460 people have been injured in Catalonia in clashes with Spanish police who were trying to prevent a referendum on independence from taking place in the northeastern region, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said Sunday.
Colau demanded “an immediate end to police charges against the defenseless population.”
Police have baton-charged and fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds in Barcelona and other towns and cities. Videos have showed them beating people repeatedly as they try to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes.
— Jamie Johnson (@JamieoJohnson) October 1, 2017
In addition to the protesters and voters injured, Spain’s Interior Ministry said 11 police officers were injured while fulfilling judicial orders to prevent the referendum on independence.
Hundreds of people had gathered before dawn at the polling stations set up in schools and other public buildings for the referendum which Spain’s central government and the court have ruled is unconstitutional.
Their goal was to protect the polling stations peacefully by preventing police from entering and seizing ballot boxes and voting papers.
But police forced their way into many polling stations, especially in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, and Girona, the fiefdom of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, a lifelong advocate of independence.
In some cases police fired rubber bullets or charged demonstrators who offered resistance, witnesses told AFP.
Videos posted on social media sites showed police pushing some demonstrators and even beating them with batons.
In one video protesters with their hands in the air can be seen surrounding a group of riot police chanting “Murderers! Murderers!”
— La belle
Spain’s interior ministry said police have closed 79 of about 2,300 polling stations used for the referendum
The ministry said Sunday that police, who are under orders to prevent the referendum from taking place, arrested three people, one a minor, for disobedience and assaulting officers.
It said 34 of the voting centers closed were in the Catalan capital of Barcelona. A regional court last week ordered police to close all the polling stations.
Earlier Sunday, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said that voting was underway in 96 percent of the voting centers.
The Spanish government says no referendum has taken place.
FC Barcelona’s soccer game against Las Palmas was to go ahead without fans in attendance at the Camp Nou stadium.
From a friend’s family in Barcelona today. Totally unacceptable behaviour from out of control thugs masquerading as police officers. Sad day pic.twitter.com/Vyod7HLXri
— Johnny Mercer MP (@JohnnyMercerUK) October 1, 2017
Barcelona made the announcement that the match would be played behind closed doors with less than a half hour to kickoff, with thousands of soccer fans already waiting outside the stadium.
Barcelona wanted the game to be postponed, but it said that the Spanish league refused to accept its request.