Catalonia, a region of Spain, is seeking independence. The inhabitants of this area hoped for a referendum vote, that took place October 1st, but were told by the Spanish Constitutional Court that the vote was illegal. Spain’s King Felipe VI addressed the nation stating, “the crown was strongly committed to the Spanish constitution and to its democracy.” Over 30,000 Catalonian protesters took to the streets disregarding the Court’s order, and voted at polling stations while others protested Barcelona police departments. Riot police in Spain have been seen beating and arresting protesters, and in the more hectic areas of Catalonia, police shot protesters with rubber bullets. Almost 900 people were injured, along with 33 police officers, as a result. The Catalan government has since apologized for the deaths of the police officers.
The referendum and its aftermath have plunged Spain into its worst constitutional crisis in decades. Catalonia, Spain’s richest region, has its own language and culture, and its political movement for secession has strengthened in recent years. The events have served as a political test for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative who has taken a hard-line stance on the issue. Catalonia’s leader, Carles Puigdemont, told BBC that the region will declare independence in a matter of days. The international community believes that the declaration will have no effect on Spain or on the world, as Spain has Europe’s fourth largest economy.
About 40% of the region’s 5.5 million eligible voters turned out to the referendum. The ballot’s results indicated overwhelming support for Catalan independence – over 90% of participants voted for independence – which was expected since most residents who favor the remaining part of Spain boycotted the referendum. Puigdemont stated that the result is valid and must be implemented. However, tensions are still running high, and many Catalans are still angered by the fact that thousands of Spanish Guardia Civil officials and police officers who tried to halt the referendum remain deployed in the region.
Puigdemont, in his first interview since the independence vote, told BBC that overly aggressive Spanish police officers were to blame for the violence. He said that it was “very sad” to see members of the national police in full body armor, indiscriminately pushing people, dragging them by their hair, and striking them with batons. Puigdemont warned that the triggering of Article 155 would be another addition to, what he called, “a long list of mistakes” by the Spanish government. Although Catalonia has unofficially declared their independence, it has been said that it will officially declare its secession this Tuesday. However, the Spanish Constitutional Court has suspended the Catalan Regional Parliament, so it will be difficult for Catalonia to plan its next steps in gaining its independence and becoming its own territory.