Spanish riot police burst into polling stations across Catalonia on Sunday, confiscating ballot boxes and voting papers to try to halt a banned referendum on a split from Spain as Madrid asserted its authority over the rebel region.
Police broke down doors to force entry into voting stations as defiant Catalans shouted “Out with the occupying forces!” and sang the anthem of the wealthy northeastern region. In one incident in Barcelona, police fired rubber projectiles.
Catalan officials said 337 people had been injured in the police crackdown. Officers in riot gear hit people with batons and forcibly removed would-be voters, including women and the elderly, from polling stations.
The referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and deepened a centuries-old rift between Madrid and Barcelona.
Despite the police action, hundreds-strong queues of people formed in cities and villages throughout the region to cast their votes. At one Barcelona polling station, elderly people and those with children entered first. (Reuters)