800 people hurt in Catalonia vote melee
BARCELONA, Spain (AP):
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau says more than 800 people have been injured in Catalonia in clashes with Spanish police trying to prevent a referendum on independence from taking place in the northeastern region.
Colau said Sunday that as mayor of the city, she demands "an immediate end to police charges against the defenceless population".
Police have baton-charged and fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds in Barcelona and other towns and cities. Videos have showed them beating people repeatedly as they try to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes.
Barcelona's soccer game against Las Palmas went ahead without fans in attendance at the Camp Nou stadium, amid the disputed referendum on Catalonia's independence.
Barcelona made the announcement that the match would be played behind closed doors with less than a half-hour to kick-off, with thousands of soccer fans already waiting outside the stadium.
Barcelona wanted the game to be postponed, but it said that the Spanish league refused to accept its request.
Scotland's leader has appealed to Spain to "change course," amid violence shown in television images in Catalonia following the disputed independence referendum.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Sunday on her Twitter feed that she was increasingly concerned by the images, which have shown police smashing into polling stations and roughing up voters. Police also fired rubber bullets. Hundreds of people were injured, including 11 police officers.
Sturgeon says that "regardless of views on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed".
Sturgeon called on Spain "to change course before someone is seriously hurt. Let people vote peacefully".
The vote is of particular interest in Scotland, which held its own referendum on independence in 2014. The vote, which ended with a vote to remain in the United Kingdom, featured heated debate but was peaceful.
Spain's interior ministry says police have closed 79 of about 2,300 polling stations that the Catalan government has authorised to stage its referendum on independence in northeastern Catalonia.
The ministry said Sunday that police, who are under orders to prevent the referendum from taking place, arrested three people, one a minor, for disobedience and assaulting officers.
It said 34 of the voting centres closed were in the Catalan capital of Barcelona. A regional court last week ordered police to close all the polling stations.
Earlier on Sunday, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said that voting was under way in 96 per cent of the voting centres.
The Spanish government says no referendum has taken place.
Belgium's prime minister has called for political dialogue in Spain amid a police crackdown on voting during the Catalonia independence referendum.
Charles Michel also condemned all forms of aggression, tweeting that "violence can never be the answer!"