Catalonia Referendum – Where is the democracy?

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Content warning: Some of the videos featured in this article may be distressing.

Scenes of police brutality emerge as Catalonia defy Madrid and go to polls. Credit: The Guardian

The Catalonian referendum had finally arrived, yet it was anything but peaceful. The people of Catalan simply wanted to express their right to vote.

Shockingly, the Guardia Civil have smashed any hopes of that. On every news site, every social media platform, we are seeing the brutality that the people of Catalan are facing.

For a country that is part of the European Union, being treated like criminals for a democratic vote, is abysmal, to say the least.

As part of the EU, states should be setting an example of how to lead democracies. Rather, what we are seeing in Spain is something you would expect from an uncivilised, authoritarian style government.

Catalan authorities have announced that 337 people have been injured from the events unfolding today, specifically police action.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has voted and said “The unjustified, disproportionate and irresponsible violence of the Spanish state today has not only failed to stop Catalans’ desire to vote but has helped to clarify all the doubts we had to resolve today.”

On assessing the scenes, he has made a formal request for today’s Barcelona’s La Liga clash with Las Palmas to be postponed, with the safety of the match in doubt.

Las Palmas appear to have addressed the referendum by embroidering a Spanish flag into their football shirt.

Today’s Las Palmas football shirt. Credit: Marca

The events that have transpired today have shocked many to the core. If a state which is part of the democratic west, can act like this, what hope is there for the rest of the world?

Far right protesters, against Catalonia being independent, have been demonstrating in small groups, going as far as burning the Catalan flag.

As the polls opened in areas all over Catalan, trouble soon arose. The police started entering polling stations to confiscate electoral material.

This soon lead to human walls being made and the Spanish police started using severe methods of violence to break apart the people. Rubber bullets were being fired to control crowds.

The phrase “Votarem, votarem!” – Catalan for “We will vote!” was used by voters who were being obstructed by the police .

Why shouldn’t the people of Catalan have a vote? They are entitled to one as much as any other state and nation. Catalonia contributes to 19% of Spain’s GDP (Gross Domestic Produce) and hosts 16% of Spain’s population.

Politicians have weighed into the madness.

Footballer and former FC Barcelona captain Xavi Hernandez, has weighed into the controversy.

He said: “What is happening today in Catalonia is a disgrace. It’s unacceptable that in a democratic country people cannot vote.

“All my support to the people who are peacefully trying to exercise their right to vote. Visca Catalonia.”

Its undemocratic not to hold a referendum. The people of Spain and Catalonia, as well as Europe deserve to see what the people want.

Isn’t that what the European Union and its nations pride themselves on – democracy?

Yet, as we can see, the EU is beginning to lose its power and stability. The UK has decided to leave Europe. Catalonia are vying for independence.

The people of Italy are demanding a referendum. What used to be a prosperous, united European Union, is now more fragmented than ever.

The fact is that Madrid and the rest of Spain have been trying to stop this referendum from occurring for the past few weeks.

Senior Catalan politicians have been getting arrested, 10 million ballot papers have been taken by the Guardia and technology has been censored. The violence was never needed. Democracy has failed Catalonia.

The outcome of this referendum, after such shocking treatment by the Guardia Civil and riot police, will not improve.

The relationship between the citizens of Catalan and the Spanish Government in Madrid will be fractured more than ever. The trust has eradicated in the government and the people of Catalonia want justice. We need to learn from this failure of democracy.

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