Catalonia’s independence referendum – outlawed by the Spanish state – has been taking place today, Sunday. As voting closed, activist David Karvala spoke to Socialist Aotearoa from outside a polling station in Barcelona
About 200 people were in front of my local polling station at 8pm as voting ended in the independence referendum. There was a countdown and huge cheer.
Some had been here since 5am. Others had stayed the night on Saturday. We then had to stay for hours more to protect the ballot boxes during the count. The result at our station was an 80 percent vote for independence. The turnout was 1,300 votes - impressive given the area and the police repression.
The paramilitary police brutally attacked a polling station just half a mile from here and all the ballot boxes were taken away. We are one of the few polling stations in the area that hasn’t been attacked.
The Catalan government released shocking footage of Spanish police attacking polling stations.
But the final images on its clip show people pushing back the riot cops. They show firefighters setting up a protective cordon for demonstrators—a decision they took collectively in an assembly.
The latest reports are that police attacks have injured 761 people with 128 of them hospitalised, including two serious cases.
There have been horror stories.
Police used tear gas in small polling station in a rural town. A village of 250 people was attacked by 60 or 70 paramilitary police.
Elsewhere the police targeted a woman with official responsibilities in the referendum. They dragged her down stone steps by her hair, touched her breasts, then broke the fingers of her hand one by one.
They shot a person at close range with a rubber bullet. He’s having emergency treatment and may lose an eye.
And then there are good stories.
In the county town of Tarrega around 1,000 people filled a square to protect the town hall as a single place for all remaining voters to vote. They had closed all other polling stations at 5pm.
Some of our contacts have sent videos of people voting in their towns.
One is from a town in the outskirts of Barcelona where many people speak Spanish, not Catalan, after migration from southern Spain in the 1960s.
The video shows an almost endless queue, right around the block, of people waiting to vote.
The Spanish police are beating the Spanish speaking workers towards support for independence.
Another contact in the small town of Pineda explained that a busload of police was sent in—but the people sent them away.
There have been urgent demonstrations elsewhere in the Spanish state showing solidarity against the repression.
Some 3,500 people took to the streets in Valencia. So did hundreds of people in Burgos—the civil war capital of former dictator General Franco.
It’s been an impressive day.
For a while this morning we had to wait to vote because the voting system was blocked for some time. People just got up to speak.
There were a couple of Scottish people here to support a referendum. A Polish woman sang a song in Polish that turned out to be a version of an anti-Franco song from the 1970s.
One of the most emotional things was when old people came to vote, sometimes with walking sticks or wheelchairs, and being cheered by everyone.
In the end it seems the police attacks only shut down a tiny minority of polling stations. The Spanish Interior Ministry said authorities had succeeded in closing down 92 of about 2,300 polling stations - or 4 percent.
But the count will depend on how many ballot boxes survive the evening.
We don’t know how many boxes will reach the stage of being counted. So the results are hard to predict and in some ways they aren’t the main thing.
Now the struggle has been massively intensified by the CCOO and UGT unions backing a general strike called for Tuesday of this week. Left unions such as the CGT had already called it - now the two main pro-independence movements have backed it too.
The main thing is that—in Barcelona neighbourhoods and even in small towns—people have come out on the street in their tens of thousands to defy the repression.