It’s all illegal! That’s Madrid’s position on the referendum in Catalonia. Of about 5.5 million eligible voters, about 2.4 million chose–or were able–to cast ballots. 90% of them voted in favor of independence from Spain.
Spanish courts have ruled, and leaders have repeated, that the country’s Constitution does not allow a region to separate. European Union courts have echoed this position.
Of course, Spain’s response to the vote was completely legal. This involved sending police into the region to close polling stations, seize ballots, and deliver some old-fashioned fascist beatings. But it was all to protect democracy, naturally.
The response of the Spanish government is perplexing. They basically strengthened the resolve of the Catalans to remove themselves from an aggressive and violent subjugator. The Spanish government’s response was reminiscent of military dictator Francisco Franco’s suppression of the Catalan language and culture prior to his death in 1975.
Through their actions to stop the referendum, they showed exactly why Catalonia would want to be independent of Spain.
Further proving the independent nature of the region, Spain had to send in an occupying force to suppress the referendum and attack anyone who tried to vote.
In a sign that Spanish police reinforcements sent to Catalonia might be there for an extended stay, an army logistics unit sent bunkbeds, kitchens and showers to an army barracks near Barcelona in case the police need to use the military base at some point, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
Some police staying at hotels in Catalonia have come under pressure from local residents to leave.
Police officers from inside the region of Catalonia would not follow the orders of Madrid.
Police from the region will actually be prosecuted by the Spanish government for inaction. They refused to break up peaceful protests and generally stood down rather than follow orders to brutalize anyone attempting to vote.
Meanwhile, Catalan firefighters lined up to form a human shield to protect protesters from the invading police force.
Media present for the vote are reporting that journalists in the area have been suppressed by the government as well.
To summarize, it started with pro-referendum Catalan politicians being arrested. Then an invading force of police suppressed the right of Catalans to vote, attacking and injuring almost 1,000 innocent citizens and non-violent protesters. The police shut down hundreds of polling stations, seized ballots, and attempted to shut out media coverage of their violence.
The government of the region which pressed ahead for the region’s right to self-governance, have the backing of a vast majority of voters who were able to express themselves at the polls. The local police and firefighters are standing behind the people of their region and defying Madrid.
It is unclear how many more people would have cast votes if the government had not responded so violently. We also don’t know how many ballots that were cast were seized and destroyed by Madrid. But since over 42% of eligible voters managed to get their ballot in, and since 90% of those voted for independence, we can say with certainty that at least 38% of eligible Catalan voters support the right to rule their own region.