The Guardian has reported that 465 people have been injured in a citywide clash between police and voters on Sunday in Barcelona. An abundance of tweets show Spanish police in riot gear dragging people out of polling places, beating them with bully sticks, using pepper spray and firing rubber bullets into crowds.
Catalonia, a wealthy region whose capital is Barcelona, is voting on whether to break off from Spain. Madrid courts and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have declared the vote unconstitutional and confiscated ballots, but the Catalan people proceeded on Sunday anyway using privately-printed ballots, according to the New York Times.
The New York Times also reports that Spain’s deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría praised Spanish police for blocking the vote, telling members of the press that the Catalan government had acted “with absolute irresponsibility, which had to be overcome by the professionalism of the security forces.”
Some are calling for action from the United Nations, which holds that member countries may use force against their own people “only when strictly necessary.” Ahead of the vote, UN human rights experts had cautioned Spain not to “violate fundamental individual rights” by blocking the Catalan government’s referendum. Citizens of Scotland, which has also called for a referendum to break from the UK, have marched in Edinburgh to the EU Commission building to protest in solidarity.
Polls will close at 8 PM Spanish time, approximately 20 minutes from this writing.