Vote for independence leads to violent clashes in Spain

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Monday, October 2, 2017
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Tensions were high in Spain as voters in Catalonia head to the polls to cast their ballot in Sunday's independence referendum.

BARCELONA, Spain -- Tensions are high in Spain as voters in Catalonia head to the polls to cast their ballot in today's independence referendum.

Violent clashes between police and voters broke out.

The Spanish government ordered police to stop the voting process after they said it was illegal.

Officers fired rubber bullets to turn protesters away.

More than 460 people were hurt. Police also confiscated the ballot boxes.

ABC7 News was at San Francisco's Crissy Field where dozens of people rallied to support the vote.

Participants said they were shocked to see the actions of police against unarmed civilians.

"We know this kind of thing. And, of course I was very shocked because we knew the Catalans would try to vote. We knew that the local police were here. But still, you know, there should be respect for the will of the people to vote, regardless what you think of their program," Ksenia said.

The Spanish prime minister said police acted with "firmness and serenity."

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.

Barcelona made the announcement that the match would be played behind closed doors with less than a half hour to kickoff, with thousands of soccer fans already waiting outside the stadium.

Barcelona wanted the game to be postponed, but it said that the Spanish league refused to accept its request.

Scotland's leader has appealed to Spain to "change course," amid violence shown in television images in Catalonia following the disputed independence referendum.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Sunday on her Twitter feed that she was increasingly concerned by the images, which have shown police smashing into polling stations and roughing up voters. Police also fired rubber bullets. Hundreds of people were injured, including 11 police officers.

Sturgeon says that "regardless of views on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed."

Sturgeon called on Spain "to change course before someone is seriously hurt. Let people vote peacefully."

The vote is of particular interest in Scotland, which held its own referendum on independence in 2014. The vote, which ended with a vote to remain in the United Kingdom, featured heated debate but was peaceful.

Spain's interior Ministry says police have closed 79 of about 2,300 polling stations that the Catalan government has authorized to stage its referendum on independence in northeastern Catalonia.

The ministry said Sunday that police, who are under orders to prevent the referendum from taking place, arrested three people, one a minor, for disobedience and assaulting officers.

It said 34 of the voting centers closed were in the Catalan capital of Barcelona. A regional court last week ordered police to close all the polling stations.

Earlier Sunday, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said that voting was underway in 96 percent of the voting centers.

The Spanish government says no referendum has taken place.

The ministry said 11 police officers were slightly injured in disturbances.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.