A Spanish riot police officer shoots a rubber bullet at people trying to reach a voting site at a school in Barcelona.
A Spanish riot police officer shoots a rubber bullet at people trying to reach a voting site at a school in Barcelona. Emilio Morenatti

Catalan firies stand firm as cops beat them

SPANISH police have been filmed attacking Catalan firefighters forming a human shield around people trying to vote in the region's independence referendum.

Footage on social media showed riot officers kicking and using batons to beat men in firefighters' uniforms, amid growing violence in Barcelona and surrounding districts.

Officers used batons and - in one incident in Barcelona - rubber bullets to remove people from polling stations, with separate footage showing police seizing ballot boxes and smashing their way into polling centres.

Police broke down doors to force entry into voting stations as defiant Catalans shouted 'Out with the occupying forces!” and sang the anthem of the wealthy northeastern region.

The aggressive tactics of Spanish authorities have prompted widespread and growing international condemnation.

Belgium's prime minister, Charles Michel, called for political dialogue in Spain and tweeted "violence can never be the answer!”

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "Regardless of views on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Police violence against citizens in Catalonia is shocking. The Spanish government must act to put an end to this now.”

And Slovenian Prime Minister Miroslav Tserar said he was "worried” about the situation.

"I call for political dialogue, the rule of law and peaceful solutions,” he said.

The referendum, declared illegal by Spain's central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and deepened a centuries-old rift between Madrid and Barcelona.

- Richard A. L. Williams, The Independent



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