BARCELONA, SPAIN, (MARTIN AROSTEGUI-VOANEWS).- Catalonia's government said early Monday that preliminary results show that 90 percent of voters in Sunday's referendum want the region to declare its independence from Spain.
Regional government spokesman Jordi Turull said 2.02 million of the 2.26 million votes cast were for independence. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said earlier he would unilaterally declare independence from Spain if the outcome of showed more than 50 percent of voters want to secede.
"We have gained the right to have a state constituted in the form of a republic," Puigdemont said in a televised address after polls closed. The government of Spain, however, forcefully disagrees.
Officials in Catalonia said more than 800 people were injured when police tried to keep residents from voting. Spain's Constitutional Court suspended a law passed by the region's parliament calling for the vote, but the referendum was held anyway.
Officers from Spain's national police forces raided polling places in an effort to close them down and halt voting.
Video showed police dragging people from polling stations and beating and kicking would-be voters and demonstrators. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy blamed those who pressed ahead with the referendum for the violence.
"Those who brought us to this are entirely responsible for public disorders that have resulted," he said in a televised speech.
Puigdemont said he would appeal to the European Union to look into alleged human rights violations in connection with the violent efforts to halt the vote. Several labor unions and other organizations called for a strike Tuesday to protest the police crackdown.
Crackdown began immediately Violence erupted early in the day when police prevented Puigdemont from casting a ballot in his home district of Gerona.
Police in riot gear charged a crowd that tried to surround them at the polling station, hitting one protestor in the eye with a rubber bullet. Puigdemont was later filmed voting at another polling station.
Catalan authorities urged voters to cast ballots at any open polling station they could find. In some cases people cast votes in ballot boxes set up on the streets.
“The Spanish state has prevented Catalans from exercising their rights, giving a terrible image of Spain” Puigdemont told journalists. Spanish police officials say that they were let down by the Catalan regional police force who had assured them that they would not allow polling stations to open.
By midafternoon balloting seemed to be proceeding normalcy at some main voting stations. The mainstream social democratic opposition party, PSOE which at first supported the conservative government’s hard-line policy towards Catalan secession, called on Rajoy and Puigdemont to resign and call new elections.
As an apparent protest against the central government efforts to abort the referendum, Barcelona’s star soccer team canceled a match with another Spanish team that announced it would play with Spain’s colors sewed on its jerseys.
Under the threat of sanctions from Spain’s football association, the Barcelona team finally agreed to play a closed door match with the team from the Canary Islands, where support for the central government is strong.