Yes side wins Catalonia independence vote marred by chaos

Yes side wins Catalonia independence vote marred by chaos, by Aritz Parra.

Catalonia’s regional government declared a landslide win for the “yes” side in a disputed referendum on independence from Spain that degenerated into ugly scenes of mayhem on Sunday, with more than 800 people injured as riot police attacked peaceful protesters and unarmed civilians gathered to cast their ballots.

Catalonia has “won the right to become an independent state,” Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said after the polls closed, adding that he would keep his pledge to declare independence unilaterally from Spain if the “yes” side wins.

Catalan regional government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters early Monday that 90 percent of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted chose the “yes” side in favor of independence. He said nearly 8 percent of voters rejected independence and the rest of the ballots were blank or void. He said 15,000 votes were still being counted. …

No one knows precisely what will happen if Catalan officials actually follow through on their pledge to use the vote — chaotic as it was — as a basis for declaring the northeastern region independent, a provocative move that would threaten Spain with the possible loss of one of its most prosperous regions, including the popular coastal city of Barcelona, the regional capital. …

Hundreds of police armed with truncheons and rubber bullets were sent in from other regions to confiscate ballots and stop the voting, and amateur video showed some officers dragging people out of polling stations by the hair, throwing some down stairs, kicking them and pushing them to the ground. Anguished, frightened screams could be heard.

Police were acting on a judge’s orders to stop the referendum, which the Spanish government had declared illegal and unconstitutional — and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said going forward with the vote only served to sow divisions.

Catalans favoring a break with Spain have long wanted more than the limited autonomy they now enjoy, arguing that they contribute far more than they receive from the central government, which controls key areas including taxes and infrastructure. …

Authoritarian violence changes people’s mind in favor of independence:

Elisa Arouca, who was waiting to vote outside the Estel school in central Barcelona, reacted with anger when national police agents yanked her and other prospective voters out of the way, then smashed the door open and confiscated the ballot boxes.

She had been planning to vote in favor of keeping Catalonia part of Spain, but decided instead to join the march for independence. She moved to another polling station to try and cast her vote in favor of breaking away.

“I was always against independence, but what the Spanish state is doing is making me change my mind,” she said. “The national police and civil guard are treating us like criminals.”

The power of big government on naked display.