You don't have to support Catalan's independence movement to agree that the police have acted irresponsibly
Today, Spain's Catalonian referendum turned violent – reminding us all that police brutality doesn't just happen in the United States.
Spanish police have turned on Catalonian citizens to try and prevent them from voting, injuring 844 people in the process.
Catalonia is a region in northeastern Spain which includes Barcelona as its regional capital, as well as the Pyrenees Mountains and the Costa Brava.
According to the BBC, many Catalonians think of themselves as independent thanks to memories of the Franco dictatorship. The region already has extensive autonomy, but nationalist fervour has been on the rise since 2010.
Although the poll taking place today was declared illegal by the Spain's constitutional court on September 7, in mid-September Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, officially called the independence referendum for October 1 anyway.
As many as 85 per cent of Catalonians were in favour of holding the referendum according to a poll conducted by regional newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya in December.
However, another poll in June by the Centre for Opinion Studies found only 41 per cent said they would be voting in favour of a split.
POLICE BRUTALITY IN CATALONIA
Regardless of arguments on both sides about the importance of self-determination, what cannot be ignored is the brutal actions of the police today.
Photos and videos are littering the internet, showing terrified citizens being manhandled by suited and booted Spanish officers who have doubled in numbers from 4,000 to 8,000 in Catalan.
Reports have revealed that police confiscated voting papers and ballot boxes in Barcelona, fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds at the Ramon Llull school in the city and used unnecessary force on young protestors and the elderly.
British journalist Harry Llewellyn Davies, who lives in Barcelona, told Dazed: “It's been crazy here today. People stayed in overnight at the electoral colleges to make sure police didn't take the ballot boxes but 465 people have been injured across Catalonia. I myself was shot at by riot police with rubber bullets. I interviewed a crying 17-year-old boy who just watched his mate get hit with one. There's (currently unverified) claims of use of tear gas as well.
“Overnight in the schools, I've spoken to some people who were told every hour that the police might be coming. This morning I was standing outside of a school and 24 police vans passed, and I went back and another 10 passed. And throughout the night, helicopters. Spanish police are making their presence known. It's constitutional dick-waving.
“It's been a game of cat and mouse but there's no justifying the level it's got to now.”
As an aside, black activist and campaigner Alexandra Kelbert spoke with representatives from a union of Senegalese street vendors in Barcelona, Sindicato de Manteros de Barcelona, during this weekend's AfroConsciencia festival, who said that the referendum has actually been a break for them.
“The same forces of state violence are usually after their black and/or undocumented asses,” she said.
Meanwhile, in Scotland protestors have been marching in support of the Catalonians.
When the Scottish referendum took place in 2014, probably the most dramatic part of the political process was when Nigel Farage was unceremoniously booed out of the country by Scots yelling “scum” – but the country and region of Catalan obviously share a common cause.
Marcher Gordon Maloney, 27, told Dazed: “I'm sceptical about comparisons with Scottish independence. But you absolutely don't have to support Catalan independence to be appalled by what's happening there now.
“Rajoy deploying the police and green lighting the violence that's happening should disgust everyone, no matter what their view on the vote itself is. That's why I went to the march - because the Spanish Government have to hear that disgust loud and clear.”