AS IT HAPPENED: Clashes at polling stations as Catalonia holds independence referendum

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
AS IT HAPPENED: Clashes at polling stations as Catalonia holds independence referendum
A team of firefighter in Catalonia try and hold off riot police at a polling station. Photo: AFP

Clashes broke out at polling stations across the northeastern region as police attempted to seize ballot boxes and prevent the 'illegal' vote on independence.


  • Voting is going ahead across Catalonia today
  • Riot police charged crowds of people at polling stations in Barcelona attempting to disperse crowds with what appeared to be rounds of rubber bullets.
  • Carles Puigdemont managed to cast his vote just before police moved in on the polling station and closed it down
  • At least 337 people have been treated by emergency services after clashes with police
  • Widespread condemnation of police 


20:00 Polls are closing in Catalonia and so we will also close our live blog for the day.

After an eventful day in the northeastern region and some extraordinary scenes of clashes between potential voters and the Spanish police, the polling stations are now closing.

19:37 Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will address the nation at 8.15pm tonight from Moncloa, just after polls close in Catalonia.

19:36 Spanish interior ministry release footage of CIvil Guard officer being smacked to the ground with chair as he enters a polling station in Catalonia. 

19:30 Half an hour until polls close

Polls close at 8pm and then people will gather in Plaza Catalunya in the centre of Barcelona for a pro-independence rally.

19:00 Guy Verhofstadt becomes first senior EU politician to condemn actions in Catalonia

18:30  Can Rajoy survive the Catalan crisis? 

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a political survivor, now faces one of the biggest challenges of his career: a surge in separatist fervour in Catalonia which many accuse him of having fanned.

READ MORE Analysis: Can PM Rajoy survive the Catalan crisis? 

18:00 Police forced the closure of 92 polling stations

Clashes outside a polling station in Sant Julia de Ramis,, this morning. Photo: AFP

Spain's Interior ministry have confirmed that so far today they managed to close 92 polling stations.

But that means that means that more than 95 percent  - of the 2,315 polling stations remained open and functioning. 

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Llado. Photo: AFP

17:24 Estimates of the number of those injured have risen steeply

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau estimates that at least 460 people have been treated for injuries sustained during clashes with police at polling stations.

17:11 Voting is still going on

After voting in Barcelona, Montse said: "I came here after seeing some very painful images this morning. I don't know if we're doing anything wrong, but we're not criminals. If you have to use the baton, you've lost the argument." 

17:01 Catalan police force against the Spanish police.

There's a huge difference between Los Mossos - the Catalan regional police force - and Spanish police - the National Police and Civil Guard - being made today. 

Footage shows tensions between Los Mossos and officers from the Guardia Civil

Here's a video of crowds cheering Los Mossos for protecting the people and some officers are visibly upset by what they are witnessing.

Earlier today El Pais reported that the Spanish public prosecutor will act against the regional police for its “passivity” in the run-up to the vote.

16: 54 Barricades are being built to protect polling stations from police


16:45 Spain demands that Catalonia call off referendum

Spain has demanded that Catalonia's separatist government call off an independence referendum, dismissing the vote as a "farce", as national police moved in to stop it.

"Continuing this farce makes no sense, this does not lead anywhere, they should stop it immediately," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said.

The Catalan government has "behaved in an absolutely irresponsible manner, it tried to annul law and justice in Catalonia, and with it democracy," she added.

"I don't know in what world (Catalan president Carles) Puigdemont lives, but Spanish democracy does not work like this. We have been free from a dictatorship for a long time and of a man who told us his word in the law," Saenz de Santamaria added, in an apparent allusion to the Franco dictatorship.

Earlier, Madrid's representative in Catalonia Enric Millo told a news conference:

"Puigdemont and his team are solely responsible for all that has happened today and for all that can happen if they do not put an end to this farce."

16:39 Human Rights Watch have urged the Spanish government to respect the right to peaceful assembly.


16:26 The Barça game against Las Palmas is goong ahead but without fans allowed to watch

Photo: AFP

READ MORE: Tensions hit football as Barça played behind closed doors

Barcelona's La Liga match against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors on Sunday after the Spanish league refused to postpone the match.

"FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression," Barcelona said in a statement.   

"Given the exceptional nature of these events, the board of directors has decided that the first-team game against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors, following the Professional Football League's refusal to postpone the game."

Earlier, Las Palmas announced they will wear a Spanish flag on their shirts as a show of support for a united Spain.

"We have decided to embroider on our shirt a small Spanish flag and today's date, October 1, to quietly demonstrate our hope in the future of this country, and in the good will of those who live in it, in search of the best understanding,"  Las Palmas said in a statement.

16:20 Officials say the number of those injured in police clashes has risen 

15: 42 Jeremy Corbyn criticises Spain

The leader of the Labour party in the UK has waded in.

13:12 Back at the demo in Plaza Catalunya 

Some are carrying the Spanish flag from the Franco-era. Marching to the beat of drums, the group chant "Puigdemont to the firing squad". +


13:04 More shocking footage from a polling station

The Local has been sent more video of police brutality at a polling station in Barcelona this morning. The images show officers throwing voters down the stairs, dragging them along the groung by their hair and kicking them in the ribs. 

12:54 Not everyone wants independence

A demonstration by those wanting unity with Spain is taking place in Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona as well as in Madrid's Plaza Mayor. 

12:36 Patiently waiting to vote

Our reporters in Barcelona, Daisy Bata and Dan Setien have filmed the long queues of people patiently waiting in the rainy streets, to cast their votes.


12:28 Meanwhile in Madrid...

Dozens gathered in the Plaza Mayor in the capital to demonstrate against the independence referendum with the slogan "Catalonia is Spain".

Over the last few days the Spanish flag has become more apparent with many people choosing to display it on the balconies in protest at events in Catalonia.

12:21 Powerful footage of baton-wielding riot police charging people waiting to vote in Girona

12:02 Nicola Sturgeon 'disturbed' by images from Catalonia

The Scottish leader has spoken out to condemn the scenes of police brutality as Catalans try and vote.

The First Minister of Scotland has previously expressed solidarity with the Catalan cause and desire to hold a Scottish-style referendum on independence.

READ MORE: Scottish leader raises concern over Catalonia crisis

11:57 At least 38 people have been injured in police clashes 

Catalan authorities confirm that so far 38 people have been treated for injuries resulting from police action at polling stations

11:53 Puidemont blasts "unjustified violence"

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont lashed out Sunday at the "unjustified violence" used by Spain's national police in dispersing people in Barcelona who wanted to vote in an independence referendum banned by Madrid.

"The unjustified use of violence, which is both irrational and irresponsible, by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people," he told reporters, referring to the police's use of "batons, rubber
bullets and indiscriminate force" against people demonstrating "peacefully".

11:40 People are voting peacefully where they can

Photo: Daisy Bata

Alex and Marta just voted at the Escola de Concepcio at Carrer Bruc in Barcelona.

"We came an hour ago here and they made space for us to enter. There was a feeling of euphoria inside and people clapping when you cast a vote. We saw images of the policy brutality on the internet, but we weren't afraid or angered because it was expected"

11:00 Police brutality

Dozens of people waiting outside the Ramon Llull school in Barcelona were forced to take cover after hearing shots fired by officers from the National Police.

In a video taken by Daisy Bata for The Local Spain rounds of shots can be clearly be heard.

Riot police appear to be firing rounds of rubber bullets to disperse crowds. This from Daisy Bata, our reported on the ground in Barcelona

— The Local Spain (@TheLocalSpain) October 1, 2017

The incident was not isolated, with reports that police were forcing their way into schools across the region.

At the Escuela Cervantes on Sant Pere Més Baix in Barcelona, crowds had begun forming outside the building since 5am.

"A lot of people were waiting around the school and they've been trying to vote since 8 am," Marc Carrasco, 46, a voting office told The Local. "The police tried to block the roads and slowly try to move people away from the small safe part of the street they were in, they must have realised it would take the whole morning to do so, so they ended up jumping through the fence with shotguns and stuff.

"I feel shaken. We managed to open the gates so people could come in and help us, we rushed to the inside and locked ourselves in but they broke open the door and came in and took the ballot box."

Crowds try and prevent police vans from closing in on the polling station. Photo: Daisy Bata

Between 20 and 30 members of the national police forced their way into a polling station at Jaume Balmes High School, north west of the city center.

Spain's central government representative in Catalonia on Sunday strongly criticised the region's police force for not closing polling stations to block an independence referendum deemed illegal by

"Catalan police officers were ordered to block the illegal referendum and to prevent polling stations from opening, but unfortunately this was not the case in the majority of cases. Politics has prevailed over professionalism," Enric Millo said.

It was up to officers from Spain's national police and Guardia Civil force "to act" to seize ballot boxes and voting papers and close polling stations, he added.

"The sole objective of today's operation has been to ensure that this illegal referendum does not take place and the Spanish and Catalan people can continue to live in peace and liberty as they have these past 40 years," Millo said.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont managed to vote on Sunday, despite a police crackdown on polling stations.

READ ALSO: Ten facts about Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

The regional government tweeted photos of Puigdemont casting his ballot in Cornella del Terri in the province of Girona, a different place from where he was initially supposed to vote.

READ MORE: Police surround polling station where Catalan president to vote



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