The results of a controversial and chaotic referendum in the Catalonia region of northeast Spain on Sunday showed landslide support for independence for the restive but affluent area, a lopsided vote sure to be vigorously challenged by the constitutional court and central government in Madrid as illegitimate and illegal. According to the Catalan government, 90 percent of the ballots cast were for independence — with 2,020,144 voting yes and 176,566 no. Minutes after the first few thousand votes were posted, the regional president and leading secessionist, Carles Puigdemont, appeared on stage to announce that Catalonia had won “the right to independence” and called on Europe to support its split from Spain. But nothing about the vote was regular — or orderly, transparent or peaceful. Images of police beating voters in stylish, cosmopolitan Barcelona fueled a widespread perception that Europe, in particular, and the West, in general – far from cheering on the breakup of Spain – face yet more tensions and dislocation. And it is far from clear that Catalonia is any closer to independence. The vote left the region and nation deeply divided.
… Soon after the polls opened, Spanish riot police smashed into the voting centers, their raids caught on mobile phone cameras that showed them whipping ordinary citizens with rubber truncheons and dragging them away by their hair.
The plebiscite produced anxiety and shock across Europe — where many condemned the violence by the police but also worried that Catalan secessionists were violating the constitution.
The secessionists said Spain’s heavy-handed attempt to snuff out the referendum stirred memories of the county’s dark decades of dictatorship. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau called the day’s violence between police and citizens “a rupture” in society.