Violence erupts as Catalans vote on a referendum for independence from Spain

Движение за независимость Каталонии набирает новых масштабов

Движение за независимость Каталонии набирает новых масштабов

Polling stations in the Spanish region of Catalonia are scheduled to open at 9 a.m. on October 1 for an independence referendum that national authorities in Madrid have called "illegal" and vowed to block.

In an appalling display of force, riot police attacked uniformed Catalan firefighters, who had arrived at a polling station to protect voters and ballots.

Police officers, under orders from the Spanish government in Madrid, prevented people from voting, which began at 9 a.m.at thousands of sites Sunday. The Spanish government has ordered police to stop the voting process, saying it's illegal.

More than 90 percent of participants voted "Yes" in the referendum, with 42.3 percent of 5.34 million eligible voters turning out, according to Catalan officials.

Puigdemont added that the in the coming days he would foward the results of the referendum to the regional Parliament and if the majority voted for seceding, he would unilaterally proclaim independence for the Catalonia region.

This is just as the Catalan Health Department claimed that 844 persons were injured by Spanish police. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted Spanish police were forced to act and that the referendum was a "mockery" of a real vote.

The region of 7.5 million people has an economy larger than that of Portugal.

Police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests in Barcelona, and Catalan emergency services say more than 700 people have been injured.

The referendum debacle brought both Spain and Catalonia closer to a potentially disastrous showdown as each side said Sunday's events proved them right and neither looked prepared to cede ground. While the Spanish interior ministry said 11 police officers had been hurt.

Premier Philippe Couillard took to Twitter to "condemn all forces of violence", without specifically mentioning the Spanish government or police forces.

In a televised address after polls closed, Puigdemont said Catalonia had "won the right to become an independent state" and urged the European Union to stop looking "the other way". Barcelona's soccer game against Las Palmas has gone ahead without fans in attendance at the Camp Nou stadium amid the disputed referendum on Catalonia's independence.

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