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SPANISH riot police unleashed hell on locals trying to vote in Catalonia’s independence referendum yesterday, smashing polling stations and firing rubber bullets into crowds.
Nearly 400 people had been injured as the Morning Star went to press, with protesters trying to stop officers confiscating and removing ballot boxes being attacked with bouts of truncheon to the head.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said the police brutality would “shame forever the Spanish state” — while Madrid’s People’s Party (PP) authorities blamed him for the violence, accusing protesters of “exposing children to violence” by taking them to demonstrations which the police then attacked.
Mr Puigdemont was unable to use his own polling station in a sports hall after police smashed the building’s glass front and stormed in, forcibly removing everyone inside. But Catalan authorities said the government would treat ballot papers printed off at home as valid.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Catalonian authorities had been irresponsible to hold the vote and insisted: “There hasn’t been a referendum or a semblance of one.”
The Interior Ministry said 11 police had also been injured.
Riot officers had behaved with “firmness and proportionality,” she said, and had not been charged with attacking protesters but with removing election materials.
Madrid holds that any vote on secession is unconstitutional and cannot be allowed to go forward.
But Communist Party of Spain (PCE) general secretary Jose Luis Centella, who is also a member of the Izquierda Unida (United Left) executive, denounced the PP for introducing a “state of emergency” in Catalonia.
He argued that the unilateral decision to hold a referendum was flawed but that could “never justify the arrest of public officials or the prohibition of demonstrations.”
Democracy was at stake on the streets of Barcelona and other cities, he declared, saying the PCE would defend “all mobilisations in defence of the people’s right to decide their future peacefully.”
Only the overthrow of Mariano Rajoy’s right-wing government could pave the way for constitutional reform and a referendum under agreed conditions, Mr Centella said, and communists would be “first in the struggle against the most corrupt government that has been known.”
Jeremy Corbyn called on the Spanish government yesterday to end its “shocking” violence in Catalonia.
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