Hundreds hurt as 2.3 million Catalans take part in unauthorised independence vote
Riot police used violence to prevent the vote from happening in Barcelona and other cities. Catalan President Puigdemont asks “Europe to get involved” and says he could declare unilateral independence in the next few days.
BARCELONA · 02 OCTOBER 2017 · 11:09 CET
The vote had been defined as illegal by the Spanish government and the Constitutional Court, but President Carles Puigdemont used the support of the majority in the Catalan parliament to go ahead. Negotiations with the Spanish government, he argued, had been far from achieving an agreed legal referendum.
In the week before, Spanish authorities blocked several bank accounts of the Catalan regional government, and police officers confiscated ballot materials.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, as well as other anti-independence parties, repeatedly called to ignore the vote, and warned about the consequences for citizens who were thinking of disobeying the Spanish law.
CHAOS AND VIOLENCE IN SOME “POLLING STATIONS”
On October 1, almost every city and town of Catalonia held the vote. In many places the vote was organised with informal procedures. Telecommunications, professional software applications and websites related to the referendum had been blocked by the police.
Even so, there were no violent incidents in 75% of the “polling places”, as the police was unable to prevent the vote from happening in most of the Catalan territory.
But the authorities accessed key places in Barcelona and other cities, where pro-referendum citizens had gathered to peacefully block the access to the police, chanting “we want to vote peacefully” and “Leave, leave!”. Chaos erupted when officers tried to disperse hundreds of people.
Dozens of video recordings on social media show scenes of chaos and violence used by police officers.
Medical authorities informed about 900 people injured, including elderly people and teenagers. Journalists also denounced attacks.
TWO STORIES: RAJOY VS. PUIGDEMONT
In the evening, the Catalan government asked “Europe to get involved” to solve the severe crisis. A general strike in Catalonia was announced for Tuesday 3, and Puigdemont said a potential “unilateral independence declaration” of Catalonia after that.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who did support the referendum but does not identify as a separatist, said the action of the Spanish government was “shameful” and added: “The European community needs to intervene”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rajoy said he was proud of the work of the police, and said only all of Spaniards have the right to decide about the country’s future. He said he was “open for dialogue” but insisted in that it is not possible for Catalonia to become independent since that would collide with the Spanish Constitution.
At the moment, negotiations between the Spanish and Catalan government are completely broken.
THE OPINIONS OF EVANGELICALS
In this context, evangelical leaders called to pray and be an example of dialogue and respectful relationships. Christians were called to “build bridges” and show the Gospel in action.
Among evangelical Christians in Catalonia and the rest of Spain, there is much diversity of opinions, but prayer initiatives have united believers from diverse political backgrounds.
The Spanish Evangelical Alliance said in a statement: “On the basis of our faith in God, in our love for the people of our country and the hope we have in Christ, we call every Christian to seek God in prayer so that he brings good relationships and the peace of God and with God that Christ came to bring is restored”.
Individual pastors preached on the issue of identity and articles were posted on Spain’s Protestant Digital giving Christian perspectives on the conflict.
The European Evangelical Alliance’s Brussels representative, Arie de Pater wrote 2 weeks ago an article entitled "Think beyond the yes / no question".