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Spanish government under fire for referendum violence

International politicians criticize police aggressions against Catalan citizens trying to vote, calling on the Spanish government to end the violence

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01 October 2017 07:30 PM

by

Alex Rolandi | Barcelona

The Spanish government’s management of today’s independence referendum has come under intense international criticism as it emerged that some police have been using violence in order to prevent people from voting.

“Violence can never be the answer,” Belgium prime minister Charles Michel said on Twitter as the day’s events took a turn for the worse. “We condemn all forms of violence, and reaffirm our call to dialogue.”

Much to the behest of many politicians worldwide, what started as a relatively peaceful day quickly descended into chaos. As polling stations opened and people readied themselves to vote, the thousands of police officers deployed in Catalonia also began to mobilize.

Under the authority of Madrid, Spain’s paramilitary Guardia Civil closed in on polling stations to prevent people from voting in the referendum Spain has always maintained as “illegal and undemocratic.”  

Clashes broke out as riot police charged peaceful protesters and citizens waiting to vote. At the time of writing, an estimated 460 people have been injured at the hands of the police, who fired rubber bullets at crowds and beat peaceful protesters with batons in order to keep people away from the ballot boxes.

  • "Violence can never be the answer"

    Charles Michel · Prime minister of Belgium

The leader of the UK’s  Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, spoke out against Spain’s actions, urging Mariano Rajoy’s government to "immediately end police violence against Catalans."

Taking to twitter, the left-wing politician expressed his shock at the “police violence against citizens in Catalonia.” He went on to urge UK prime minister Teresa May “to appeal directly to Rajoy to end violence in Catalonia” and find a political solution for “this constitutional crisis.”

Finland’s foreign affairs minister, Timo Soini has also criticized Sunday’s violence, urging both the governments of Spain and Catalonia to sit “at the negotiating table as soon as possible.”

Another Finnish MP, Mikko Kärnä of the Center Party, said that the Finnish government “condemned the violence in Catalonia.” Earlier this week Kärnä revealed how the Spanish ambassador to Finland had sent him a series of threatening emails because of his support for the Catalan referendum.

EU party the European Greens has called the “massive” police violence in Catalonia a “big mistake” on Rajoy’s part. Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts, presidents of the party, ascertained that the European Commission will no longer turn a blind eye to the situation. Violence will only “worsen the situation,” they said as they urged the European Commission to “promote dialogue and offer mediation.”

Later in the afternoon, German chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Rajoy and demanded an explaination for the police repression that led to so many injuries.

The Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar also expressed his concern, calling for “a peaceful solution” to the situation in Catalonia, while Scottish prime minister Nicola Sturgeon asked Spain “to let people vote peacefully.”

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  • Guardia Civil agents confront people outside a polling station in Catalonia (by ACN)