Posts Tagged ‘declared illegal by Spain’s central government’

Spanish police use axes to smash their way into Catalan voting center

October 1, 2017

The Associated Press

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Spanish Civil Guard officers break through a door at a polling station for the banned independence referendum. Reuters

SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, Spain — Spanish riot police smashed their way into the polling station where Catalonia’s regional leader was due to vote in the disputed independence referendum on Sunday.Scuffles erupted outside between police and people waiting to vote.

Civil Guard officers, wearing helmets and carrying shields, used a hammer to break the glass of the front door and a lock cutter to break into the Sant Julia de Ramis sports center near the city of Girona. At least one woman was injured outside the building and wheeled away on a stretcher by paramedics.

Clashes broke out less than an hour after polls opened, and not long before Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont was expected to turn up to vote. Polling station workers inside the building reacted peacefully and broke out into songs and chants challenging the officers’ presence.

National Police and Civil Guard officers also showed up in other polling centers where Catalan officials were expected.

Catalans defied rain and police orders to leave designated polling stations for the banned referendum on the region’s secession that has challenged Spain’s political and institutional order.

The country’s Constitutional Court has suspended the vote and the Spanish central government says it’s illegal.

Regional separatist leaders have pledged to hold it anyway, promising to declare independence if the “yes” side wins, and have called on 5.3 million eligible voters to cast ballots.

Reporters with The Associated Press saw ballot boxes wrapped in plastic bags being carried into some of the polling stations in Barcelona occupied by parents, children and activists before some polling stations could open at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) as scheduled.

The plastic ballot boxes, bearing the seal of the Catalan regional government, were placed on tables, prompting the cheering of hopeful voters that had gathered in schools before dawn.

Some 2,300 facilities had been designated as polling stations, but it was unclear how many were able to open. The Ministry of Interior didn’t provide a number late on Saturday when it said that “most” of them had been sealed off and that only “some” remained occupied.

Police have received orders to avoid the use of force and only have been warning people to vacate the facilities. They are also supposed to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes.


In an effort to overcome myriad obstacles, Catalan officials announced that voters would be allowed to cast ballots in any location and using ballots printed at home, rather than in designated polling stations as previously announced.

Regional government spokesman Jordi Turull also said that a group of “academics and professionals” would serve as election observers. The official electoral board appointed by the regional parliament was disbanded last week to avoid hefty fines by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“We are under conditions to be able to celebrate a self-determination referendum with guarantees,” Turull said in a press conference. “Our goal is that all Catalans can vote.”

Tension has been on the rise since the vote was called in early September, crystalizing years of defiance by separatists in the affluent region, which contributes a fifth of Spain’s 1.1 trillion-euro economy ($1.32 trillion.)

Spain’s 2008-2013 financial crisis and harsh austerity measures fueled frustration in Catalonia for setbacks in efforts to gain greater autonomy, with many Catalans feeling they could do better on their own.

Courts and police have been cracking down for days to halt the vote, confiscating 10 million paper ballots and arresting key officials involved in the preparations. On Saturday, Civil Guard agents dismantled the technology to connect voting stations, count the votes and vote online, leading the Spanish government to announce that holding the referendum would be “impossible.”

Joaquim Bosch, a 73-year-old retiree at Princep de Viana high school, where a crowd of 20 people was growing Sunday morning, said he was uneasy about a possible police response to the crowds.



Independence vote: Police seize Catalan referendum ballot boxes

October 1, 2017

Catalan officials have told people to print their own ballots and vote at any open polling station as police confiscate ballot boxes and surround voting spots. Thousands of officers are in Catalonia to stop the vote.

Catalan police watching a polling station (Getty Images/AFP/C. Manso)

Spanish police and Civil Guard officers have begun seizing ballot boxes and voting papers, the country’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday. Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that confrontations between voters and police had occurred in Barcelona.

“These are the first ballot boxes and ballots seized by police in Barcelona. Officers are continuing their deployment in Catalonia,” the Interior Ministry said in a Twitter message that included a picture of four plastic ballot boxes and piles of ballots.

Ballot papers with the seal of the Catalan government and boxes had appeared at dozens of referendum sites in Catalonia overnight Sunday amid chants of “Votarem” (We will vote), despite earlier claims by the Spanish government that it had succeeded in stopping the “illegal” referendum.

DW’s Mariel Müller was on hand when the boxes arrived at one school.

Many supporters of Catalan independence spent the night in schools and other polling places in an effort to keep them open until voting begins Sunday at 9 a.m. (0700 UTC). A government official said parents and students were “peacefully” occupying 163 schools.

Thousands of people began to stand in line outside polling stations on Sunday morning from 5 a.m. local time.

Around the same time, 30 civil guard vans and trucks with police left Barcelona port. Police have been brought in from other regions of Spain to prevent the vote taking place. At one, a Barcelona school, organizers asked people to use passive resistance if police intervened, Reuters news agency reported.

Catalan government officials said Saturday morning that people could use ballots they print at home and vote at any open polling station if their designated booth was closed.


Read more: Catalan independence – what you need to know

Resolving a serious political battle

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont called for “mediation” Saturday to resolve the “serious” political battle dividing his regional authority from the central government in Madrid.

“If the yes wins, if the no wins — in any scenario there must be mediation because things aren’t working,” he said in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Puigdemont did no say directly who should mediate Spain’s internal feud but indicated that the European Union should fill the void.

“I think that from now it would be logical for the EU to actively monitor [the situation] and actively take an interest,” he said.  “If it doesn’t take an interest in what is happening in Catalonia when everyone is watching and taking an interest, there’s something wrong.”

But Brussels has preferred to sit on the sidelines of what it views as an internal dispute in Spain. The block has only warned Catalans that if they were to secede from Spain they would have to apply for EU membership, which Madrid would have authority to block.

Voting stations blocked

Meanwhile, the Spanish government said the majority of designated voting stations in Catalonia had been shut down to prevent the banned referendum from going ahead.

Watch video02:50

Catalan referendum — Stay or go?

Madrid, which has declared the referendum illegal, has vowed to block the poll. Thousands of extra police have been deployed to the northeastern region with orders to evacuate and shut down potential voting stations by 6 a.m. on Sunday. Police have been given orders to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes and to refrain from using force.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis called Catalonia’s plan to hold the independence referendum “a mockery of democracy.”

Organizers press ahead with vote

Despite government efforts to prevent the vote from taking place, Catalan leaders say it will go ahead as planned.

Puigdemont insisted that everything was set-up so that the referendum “takes place normally.” He said his supporters would cast ballots on Sunday as planned.

At a press conference Friday, Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras said that if “someone closes a polling station, there is an alternative for citizens to vote,” without giving further details.

Referendum organizers asked voters to turn up at 7 a.m. ahead of the polls opening at 9 a.m. “We must organize it so that there are long queues to give the image to the world that we are going to vote,” instructions sent to voters read.

“Act in a peaceful way and do not respond to any provocation, from other citizens or from police.”

Huge protests

Thousands of people gathered in central Madrid on Saturday to protest against the planned secession vote. Waving Spanish flags, they chanted “Viva Espana,” “Spanish unity” and “Catalonia is Spain.” Some of the protesters also called for pro-independence Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to be put in jail.

DW journalist Peter Geoghegan was in Barcelona during a Spanish unity rally while DW’s Mariel Müller could not find anyone ready to vote “no” in the referendum.

Met plenty of anti independence supporters in Barcelona too. ‘Spain is a family. Catalonia is part of that family’. None said they’ll vote

Catalans get ready for disputed . I spoke to some about the reasons for their decision. (I couldn’t find a “No” voter)

The unity demonstration was the largest in the Spanish capital since the referendum was called earlier this year. Similar rallies also took place in other cities, including Malaga, Cordoba, Seville, Santander, Palma de Mallorca and Zaragoza.

The atmosphere was different in Catalonia’s regional capital Barcelona on Friday night, as huge crowds turned out to show their support for the independence campaign. Earlier in the day, farmers drove tractors through the center of the city, vowing to help protect polling stations from police.

A demonstration for Catalan independenceProtesters wave Catalan flags at an independence campaign rally in Barcelona

A large majority of Catalans back the idea of holding a legitimate referendum, but they are split over independence itself.

jm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)


Catalans gather to vote in referendum banned by Spain

October 1, 2017

Reuters and AFP

Reuters Video:

© PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP | People gather inside a would-be polling station in Barcelona, on October 1, 2017, to prevent the police to seal it off in a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid.

Video by Sarah MORRIS


Latest update : 2017-10-01

Thousands of Catalans gathered at designated polling stations on Sunday morning as they sought to defy Spanish authorities by voting in a banned independence referendum that has raised fears of unrest in the wealthy northeastern region.

The referendum, declared illegal by Spain‘s central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and raised fears of street violence as a test of will between Madrid and Barcelona plays out.

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 Catalans camped out at the Miquel Tarradell school on Saturday. Credit Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Civil Guard national police also streamed in a convoy through the streets of Barcelona in the early morning, but at dawn there was no sign of either national or Catalan police enforcing a court order to lock down the polling stations.

At some stations, voters blocked doors in anticipation that police could try to enter and take over the sites. At one, a Barcelona school, organisers asked people to use passive resistance if police intervened.

“I have got up early because my country needs me,” said Eulalia Espinal, a 65-year-old pensioner who started queuing with around 100 others outside one polling station, a Barcelona school, in rain at about 5 a.m. (0300 GMT).

“We don’t know what’s going to happen but we have to be here,” she said.


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‘Yes’ result likely, if some voting goes ahead

Organisers had asked voters to turn out hours before polling stations were supposed to open at 9 a.m., and called for “massive” crowds by 7.30 a.m., hoping for this to be the world’s first image of voting day.

Leading up to the referendum, Spanish police arrested Catalan officials, seized campaigning leaflets, sealed off many of the 2,300 schools designated as polling stations and occupied the Catalan government’s communications hub.

But Catalan leaders, backed by pro-independence supporters, have refused to abandon their plans. Families have occupied scores of schools earmarked as voting centres, sleeping overnight in an attempt to prevent police from sealing them off.

If some voting goes ahead, a “yes” result is likely, given that many unionists are not expected to turn out.

“If I can’t vote, I want to turn out in the streets and say sincerely that we want to vote,” said independence supporter Jose Miro, a 60-year-old schools inspector.

Only the Catalan police, or Mossos d’Esquadra, have so far been monitoring polling stations. They are held in affection by Catalans, especially after they hunted down Islamists accused of staging deadly attacks in the region in August.

Madrid’s crackdown undermines vote

Pro-independence Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont originally said that if the “yes” vote won, the Catalan government would declare independence within 48 hours, but regional leaders have since acknowledged Madrid’s crackdown has undermined the vote.

Markets have reacted cautiously but calmly to the situation so far, though credit rating agency S&P said on Friday that protracted tensions in Catalonia could hurt Spain’s economic outlook. The region accounts for about a fifth of the economy.

The ballot will have no legal status as it has been blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court, and Madrid has the ultimate power under its 1978 charter to suspend the regional government’s authority to rule if it declares independence.

The Madrid government, which has sent thousands of police to Catalonia to enforce a court ban on the vote, believes it has done enough to prevent any meaningful referendum taking place.

Farmers have used tractors to guard polling stations in 30 Catalan towns, according to Spanish media reports. They included one at a sports centre in Sant Julia de Ramis, near Girona, where Puigdemont was scheduled to vote later.

At other polling centres, activists carried away schools’ iron gates to make it harder to seal them off.

A minority of around 40 percent of Catalans support independence, polls show, although a majority want to hold a referendum on the issue. The region of 7.5 million people has an economy larger than that of Portugal.