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Reuters/Eloy Alonso
Gotta keep ’em separated.
SEPARATION ANXIETY

Spain’s government is scrambling to kill Catalonia’s independence referendum by any means possible

By Lianna Brinded

The ballot papers for Catalonia’s independence referendum contain just one question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?”—and people can only answer “Yes” or “No.” But it’s getting ugly for Catalans who are trying to vote in today’s (Oct. 1) ”illegal” and “evil” independence referendum.

Catalonia’s authorities say voting has begun and predicts a big turnout but police are trying to shut down the vote by any means possible and Spanish Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, said the vote would not happen.

Spain’s government gave police the power to stop the vote by shutting down all places that could be used as polling stations, seizing any items are being used for the vote, including ballot boxes, computers, ballot papers, election documents and “propaganda.” The police have already stormed ministries and buildings belonging to Catalonia’s regional government. Reports around 11a.m. local time say that the internet has been cut to several polling centers, forcing electoral volunteers to halt voting because the website hosting census data is down.

Catalans camped overnight or arrived around dawn to queue at would-be polling stations despite police stepping up efforts to kill the referendum.

Reuters/Jon Nazca
Catalans camp overnight at polling stations.

Spanish authorities said that only 163 Catalan schools out of 2,300 visited by police, were occupied and the rest were sealed off, even though protestors tried to remove school gates to make it more difficult for authorities to restrict access. It added that sit-in protests at schools had largely “failed” and any people occupying schools or staging a sit-in will be evicted.

Reuters/Vincent West
People camped overnight in schools and would have dinner together, ahead of the Oct. 1. vote.

But police were filmed forcibly dragging away voters and protestors from polling stations, while elsewhere occupying the regional government’s telecommunications center to prevent protestors using it.

Images that Madrid has been fearing as police uses force to remove young and old from voting stations. @FT pic.twitter.com/F09fpak5FI

— Michael Stothard (@MStothard) October 1, 2017

Elsewhere there are reports that people are getting injured by clashes with the police, including that of an older woman in Barcelona.

Un home ha quedat inconscient davant la Policia. Ambulància Urgent a Infant Jesús pic.twitter.com/lw908EBssu

— Carme Rocamora (@CarmeCRS) October 1, 2017

Rubber bullets are apparently being used on crowds too:

AHORA. Hay heridos por balas de goma en el Colegio Ramón Llul del centro de Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/D3bOAxwmLD

— Adrián S. Berger (@sanchezberger) October 1, 2017

At the moment it is unclear if it’s even possible to determine an outcome to the referendum if ballot boxes are being seized and people are being prevented from voting. On top of that, the vote is illegal anyway. It has no legal status in Spain—it was blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court. However, this has not prevented pro-independence Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont from saying the Catalan government would declare independence within 48 hours if the “yes” vote won.