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Eyewitness from Barcelona – ‘We‘ve defied repression in Catalonia independence vote’

This article is over 6 years, 7 months old
Catalonia’s independence referendum – outlawed by the Spanish state – has been taking place today, Sunday. As voting closed, activist David Karvala spoke to Socialist Worker from outside a polling station in Barcelona
Issue 2574
Hundreds of local people arrived at schools and public buildings at 5am to keep them open for the election. This was the scene at Lavinia school.
Hundreds of local people arrived at schools and public buildings at 5am to keep them open for the election. This was the scene at Lavinia school. (Pic: Guy Smallman)

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 at least 844 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 minority of polling stations. 

Jordi Turull, the Catalan regional government spokesperson, said early on Monday morning that 90 percent of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted on Sunday chose Yes. Catalonia has 5.3 million registered voters.

Turull said the number of ballots did not include those confiscated by Spanish police. 

Spanish police closed or raided or smashed around 400 polling stations where up to 700,000 people could have voted.

Given the repression it’s an excellent result.

The Catalan government said last week that if there was a Yes vote it would declare independence. That’s not certain.

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.

David Karvala is a member of revolutionary socialist group Marx21. Protest against the repression in Catalonia – Tuesday 3 October, 6pm-8pm, 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA. Go to STOP repression in Catalonia! Defend people’s right to choose on Facebook 

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