Almost simultaneously at around 9:00 am, Spanish National Police officers and Guardia Civil began raiding polling stations. There were very violent police actions, and at the final count released at 10pm, Emergency Medical Services said that there had been 844 injured, two of which were serious. One of the serious cases is a boy who was struck in the eye by a rubber bullet.
Ballot papers were also confiscated and there were arrests. According to a Spanish Interior Ministry tweet at 4:49pm, three people had been arrested, one of them a minor, for disobedience and attacking a law enforcement officer.
In addition, the Ministry announced that nine officers of the National Police and three from the Guardia Civil were injured during the police actions against voters, and said that 92 polling places had been shut down. Carles Puigdemont, President of the Generalitat, denounced the violent actions by the Spanish police and decried that the Spanish authorities had made use of "truncheons against ballot boxes, violence against civility". "Given the cowardice of those who use violence and government resources, I admire and am moved by the courage of thousands of citizens who are defending ballot boxes and polling stations", he said. The President accused the Spanish government of having only "imposition and force” as arguments to convince Catalans, and criticized "this new wave of crazed repression against peaceful people".
Evictions and police actions throughout the region
In Sant Julià de Ramis, the town where the President of the Generalitat was due to vote, the Guardia Civil used force to disperse the hundred or so people who were gathered at the polling place. Some fifty officers removed those present, journalists included, and surrounded the polling station to prevent anyone from approaching. Some elderly people fell down. Among those gathered were families with children.
In Sant Carles de la Ràpita the Guardia Civil also acted forcefully against members of the public. Many of the people present during the eviction were struck. One group of voters had started to chant at the police, in Spanish, "Democracy".
At the Institut Ramon Llull in Barcelona, people began to chant “we are people of peace" while the Spanish police charged against them. In another part of Barcelona, a video recorded by the South American channel Telesur shows the actions of the National Police. They police began to push forward at the cry of "Let's go!" without previous provocation from the demonstrators. The people, who responded by raising their hands in the air, resisted peacefully and refused to move.
The violence also reached the Ministry of Education, where a polling place had been set up. The people who were there sat on the floor to prevent the police from entering the room with the ballot boxes. The officers entered the building and began to remove people violently.
The riot police unit from the National Police also intervened in the Jaumes Balmes School in Barcelona. Demonstrators tried to prevent the police actions by clapping hands and chanting "The streets will always be ours".
There was a similar situation at the Institut Ramon Llull, and the offices ended up ripping the ballot boxes out of the hands of volunteers and voters.
At least 337 injured according to the Catalan government, one by a rubber bullet
According to what ARA has learned, Emergency Medical Services (SEM) reported that as of 1:00 pm there were 337 injured people (according to the SEM, at least 141 were treated by them and 143 went directly to hospitals and primary care centers) due to police actions. Of these, 53 were less serious. The Catalan government recommended that anyone who was injured during the day should file an official complaint. [Note: The official injury count was later increased to 844.]
At least one of the injured had been hit by a rubber bullet and was being operated on at Sant Pau Hospital. The use of rubber bullets was banned by the Parliament of Catalonia, and the Mossos d'Esquadra no longer use them. According to witnesses, the Spanish police opened fire against demonstrators in spite of them having their hands raised in a non-violent way.
The Health Ministry reported at least 38 injuries of various types at around noon. According to a tweet by the Catalan Ministry, 35 people had been treated for minor injuries and 3 for less serious ones. The emergency services treated primarily bruises, dizziness, and panic attacks.
The Catalan government advised that all people who were injured during the day file an official complaint with the Mossos d'Esquadra.
This newspaper has learned that the first serious injuries took place in the Nou Barris neighborhood in Barcelona. A woman was struck in the head by Spain’s National Police and had to seek treatment. The incident happened on Via Favència, next to the Ronda de Dalt.
Also in Nou Barris district, at the Escola Prosperitat, an elderly woman faced off against the National Police. The woman, who ended up on the ground, struck the helmet of a riot police officer, who responded by pushing her and throwing her against the rest of the demonstrators.
In Sant Julià de Ramis, where some of the most violent incidents happened, another woman was injured.
The Minister of the Interior's reaction
On his personal Twitter account, Spanish Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido shared a video of National Police officers confiscating referendum ballot boxes. Zoido said that the Police action was "to enforce justice and legal mandates in the face of the illegal referendum", and accompanied the message with the hashtag #EstamosporTI (¨We're [here] for you").
The Interior Minister also expressed his satisfaction with the police actions, and issued a message that talked about "the first confiscated ballot boxes", of which he posted a photo.
At 11:45 Zoido published a third message on the actions of the Spanish security forces in Catalonia. In a tweet, the Interior Minister described the police aggressions as professional and proportional. To support this, Zoido included a video with the message showing a Guardia Civil officer expelling a man and his son from a group around the polling center, with neither the man nor his son suffering any harm.