Ballot box seizures, crying cops & beaten firefighters: Catalonia vote in 10 groundbreaking videos
Whatever the legal outcome of the Catalonian referendum, the pro-independence side scored a decisive public victory on October 1, as instantly-iconic images contrasted their passion against the combative nature of the uniformed federal government enforcers.
With the referendum declared illegal by Madrid, special police units drafted in from across Spain smashed into polling stations at dawn to seize ballot boxes.
At many stations, crowds had already gathered to cast their votes, and the arrival of riot police and the civil guard ignited heated confrontations.
Police actively used rubber bullets and truncheons to forcibly remove voters and disperse crowds of pro-independence demonstrators, injuring at least 893 people across Catalonia.
Scenes of Spanish police violently clashing with the voters quickly spread on social media, provoking outcry and condemnation across Catalonia.
In the southern Catalan town of Mont-roig del Camp, demonstrators forced a squadron of the civil guard to retreat.
Catalan police were forced into multiple standoffs with Spain’s Guardia Civil unit amid widespread violence, while local support for the Mossos d’Esquadra even brought the officers to tears.
Local Catalonian firefighters also formed human shields on several occasions to protect people from federal law enforcers.
And although they were wearing their uniforms and only tried to separate the sides, riot cops still turned their batons on the fire officers.
In support of Catalonia's right to express their will freely, and to avoid escalating an already inflamed situation, FC Barcelona, a pillar of the region’s identity, played its league match against Las Palmas behind closed doors while crowds outside and all around the city resembled those at a football match. Barca won 3-0.
The legitimacy of the plebiscite remains in question though, as Madrid declared it “illegal,” and after the polls closed, even said “no referendum has been held in Catalonia today.” The Catalans, meanwhile, warmly embraced the few international monitors who observed the expression of their will on Sunday.
Madrid's plan to foil the poll failed, as Catalonian authorities said 73 percent of all polling stations remained open. Over 90 percent of those able to vote supported independence, with over 2,2 million total ballots cast, excluding those that were seized during police raids.