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2017 Catalan Independence Referendum
2017 Catalan independence referendum
1 October 2017
Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?
The referendum was approved by the Catalan parliament in a session in which only nationalist parliamentarians participated on 6 September 2017 along with the Law of juridical transition and foundation of the Republic of Catalonia the following day 7 September, which stated that independence would be binding with a simple majority, without requiring a minimum turnout. After being suspended, the law was finally declared void on 17 October, being also unconstitutional according to the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia which requires a two-thirds majority, 90 seats, in the Catalan parliament for any change to Catalonia's status.
The referendum question, which voters answered with "Yes" or "No", was "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?". The "Yes" side won, with 2,044,038 (92.01%) voting for independence and 177,547 (7.99%) voting against, on a turnout of 43.03%. The Catalan government estimated that up to 770,000 votes were not cast due to polling stations being closed off during the police crackdown, although the "universal census" system introduced earlier in the day allowed electors to vote at any given polling station. Catalan government officials have argued that the turnout would have been higher were it not for Spanish and Catalan police suppression of the vote. On the other hand, many voters who did not support Catalan independence did not turn out, as the constitutional political parties asked citizens not to participate in what they considered an illegal referendum.
On the day of the referendum, the inaction of part of the autonomous police force of Catalonia, the Mossos d'Esquadra, allowed many polling stations to open. The Spanish National Police Corps and the Guardia Civil intervened and raided several polling stations after they opened. 893 civilians and 111 agents of the National Police and the Guardia Civil were reported to have been injured. According to various sources these previously reported figures may have been exaggerated. According to the judge from Barcelona who is currently investigating the accusations of police violence, there were 218 persons injured on that day in the city of Barcelona alone, 20 of whom were agents. According to the official final report by the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) of the Generalitat 1066 civilians, 11 agents of the National Police and the Guardia Civil and 1 agent of the regional police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, were injured. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, urged the Spanish government to prove all acts of violence that took place to prevent the referendum. The police action also received criticism from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch which defined it as an "excessive and unnecessary use of force".Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena stated Puigdemont ignored the repeated warnings he received about the escalation of violence if the referendum was held.
The election resulted in a minority government for the Junts pel Sí coalition (JxSí), which had won a plurality of MPs (62 of the 135 seats), plus conditional support from the 10 CUP-CC MPs. Shortly after the government was formed, it resolved to hold a referendum on independence.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and 700 mayors of Catalonia on the meeting at preparation of referendum, 16 September 2017
Final meeting of campaign for referendum in front of Palau Nacional, 29 September 2017
The Catalan government's decree officially calling the referendum was expected to be approved in the second half of August but was approved only on 6 September.
Shortly after the referendum was announced, attention focused on the issue of the ballot boxes, since the government of Spain is in charge of providing them, whereas for this non-state-sanctioned vote, the government of Catalonia would have to put them in place, potentially risking prosecution for the misuse of public funds. It is still unclear who bought them. The Catalan government opened a bidding process to buy them but no offers were presented. Cristóbal Montoro, the Spanish Minister of the Treasury, assured that the ballot boxes were not paid for with public money and some media reported they were finally bought by an individual whose identity remains unknown.
Tendering by the Catalan government for materials such as ballot papers and envelopes for a putative regional election in the region were thought by some to be an attempt to covertly organise the referendum. On 24 March, the Spanish Public Prosecutor's Office in Catalonia had already announced an inquiry to determine whether a referendum is in the planning.
In terms of its organisation, the electoral roll is one of the main points in contention, since this is managed by the National Institute of Statistics, an autonomous organisation placed under the jurisdiction of the government of Spain. To access its data, polls must have been authorised by the Spanish Congress. Without an undisputed access to the electoral roll, the results may be deemed unreliable. Similar difficulties could be met when it comes to the electoral commission to be formed for monitoring the polling and results.
An official announcement by the government of Catalonia suggested that Catalan residents overseas willing to vote would have to register. By the end of June 2017, out of 285,000 Catalans living abroad and eligible to vote, 5,000 had registered.
Tensions within the Catalan government
On 3 July 2017, President Puigdemont sacked his Minister for Enterprise, Jordi Baiget [ca; es], who, in the face of the legal challenges, had just expressed doubts regarding the referendum taking place as envisioned by the Catalan government.
Then, on 14 July, Puigdemont proceeded with a cabinet reshuffle, replacing three additional ministers in his cabinet (the ones responsible for presidency, education, and interior) in a move widely seen as a removal of the remaining hesitant voices within his cabinet in regards to the referendum issue.
On 17 July, the chief of the Catalan police, called Mossos d'Esquadra, resigned without giving any reason. The Catalan police force is seen as key to enforcing any court orders sought by the central government challenging the secession vote.
Additional isolated resignations and dismissals have been noted among some of the high-level civil servants potentially playing a role with the vote's organisation.
Protests in Barcelona after Spanish police raided Catalan government buildings, 20 September 2017
When the Spanish Constitutional Court suspended the law on the referendum on 7 September 2017, it forbade several Catalan office holders, the Catalan media, as well as the 948 municipalities of Catalonia to participate in the preparation of the referendum. The municipalities were instructed to reply within 48 hours whether they intended to comply or not. Out of 726 municipalities that answered, 682 announced that they would support the referendum anyway, 41 announced they would refuse to support it, and three, including the municipality of Barcelona, answered without making their intentions clear.
Around 150 people chanted slogans in favour of the police operation, the unity of Spain and against holding a referendum vote, 21 September 2017.
Among those that refused to support the referendum, however, there are large population centers, such as the provincial capitals of Lleida (140,000 inhabitants) and Tarragona (130,000 inhabitants) or the cities of Terrassa (215,000 inhabitants) and Hospitalet de Llobregat (250,000 inhabitants) governed by PSC mayors. The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, while refusing to make a statement whether the municipality of Barcelona would provide logistical support to the referendum or not, strongly criticised the "language of testosterone" and the pressure that she said was being exerted on the municipalities. Nevertheless, she announced that she would do anything possible to allow those in Barcelona who wished to vote to do so.
Police operation to stop the referendum
The Catalan National Assembly's pro-independence "Sí" flag
On 20 September 2017, following orders of the trial court number 13, the Spanish Civil Guard started Operation Anubis. During the first day, the police officers raided different headquarters of the Government of Catalonia and arrested 14 senior officials involved in the preparation of the referendum. Simultaneously, several printing companies were searched for ballot papers and ballot boxes. Crowds gathered around the regional ministries to support the arrested staff and later on several pro-independence organisations, including the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural. A crowd of more than 40,000 people heeded the call made by Òmnium Cultural and ANC and surrounded the Catalan economy department, preventing the exit of the Civil Guard agents. Demonstrators vandalised three vehicles of the Civil Guard and their occupants were forced to flee into the Economy Department building, a court clerk remained trapped until midnight inside the building and had to flee by the roof, while several agents were trapped throughout the night as demonstrators shouted outside "You won't get out!". The damages in the vehicles (3 Nissan Patrol) accounted for 135,632 EUR. The Civil Guard agents cornered into the building made 6 calls for help to the autonomous police force of Catalonia, Mossos d'Esquadra, which were ignored. The first request for help was at 9:14 am with the subject: "Urgent - Request for support to Mossos".
Both Mossos d'Esquadra Major Josep Lluís Trapero Álvarez and Barcelona IntendantTeresa Laplana Cocera were charged with sedition because of the role played by the regional police. Trapero stated that the mossos weren't warned with enough time and that the demonstration was peaceful. Two Catalan pro-independence leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart (Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Òmnium Cultural, respectively) were sent to prison without bail by Spain's National Court. They are being investigated for alleged crimes of sedition for their role in organising these massive protests aimed at hindering the Civil Guard investigation. On 20 September morning, Jordi Sànchez called for "peaceful resistance" to the police operation through social media. The investigating judge stated that the leaders did not call for "peaceful demonstration but to the protection of Catalan officials through 'massive citizens' mobilisations" and that Jordi Sànchez, on top of a vehicle, encouraged the demonstrators with expressions such as "no one goes home, it will be a long and intense night". According to the judge the actions of Sànchez and Cruixat are into the scope of sedition, a felony regulated by the article 544 and subsequents of the Spanish Criminal Code:
Conviction for sedition shall befall those who, without being included in the felony of rebellion, public and tumultuously rise up to prevent, by force or outside the legal channels, application of the laws, or any authority, official corporation or public officer from lawful exercise of the duties thereof or implementation of the resolutions thereof, or of administrative or judicial resolutions.
A video uploaded to Twitter shows Cuixart y Sànchez on top of one of the vandalized Guardia civil cars on that night saying "Above all... We ask that you dissolve this demonstration, as best as you can, very calmly, today, in a few minutes". According to the source this happened around 11:00 pm and would contradict one of the arguments used by the investigating judge.Amnesty International considered "pre-trial detention" excessive in this case and called for "immediate release" of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart.
In the following days, the Spanish Civil Guard and the Spanish National Police were reinforced with police officers from the rest of Spain, which are expected to reach 16,000 police and military police officers distributed in different Catalan cities on 1 October 2017 and would continue to carry out searches in companies that allegedly had referendum ballots or ballot boxes. This would spark multiple protest demonstrations all across Catalonia, including cacerolazos during the night.[failed verification] Demonstrations "in defense of the right to decide of the Catalans" were held in several cities in Spain, though few people attended. On the other hand, demonstrations were held throughout Spain in which thousands of people protested against the referendum and the agents were acclaimed by the crowds in numerous cities of Spain when they left for Catalonia.
A conference named Referendum yes or yes that was going to be held in Vitoria-Gasteiz on 15 September was forbidden by the courts after a request from the Spanish government. The speakers, including the pro-independence deputy Anna Gabriel, disobeyed the ruling and tried to hold the conference anyway, but the room where it was taking place was evicted by the police five minutes after starting. One year later, the same court recognized there were no reasons to suspend the conference.
In the days previous to the referendum, the Spanish civil guard shut down more than 140 websites following a court order issued by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia, including the official one from the Catalan government and the main site of the Catalan civil organization ANC. That involved sending requests -- and sometimes, directly sending the Guardia Civil -- to major Spanish telecom operators offices, domain providers, the dotCat Foundation and Google, in this particular case to remove an app from Google Play that included information on polling stations. This situation was denounced by Internet-related organizations from around the world including Internet Society, APC, EFF, The Tor Project and Xnet.
The Catalan Government announced it planned to hold the referendum on 1 October 2017. The Electoral Commission of Catalonia was responsible for overseeing the referendum, but it was dissolved on 22 September 2017 after the Constitutional Court announced that otherwise they would be fined between EUR6,000 and EUR12,000 per day. The campaign was planned to last 15 days, spanning from 00:00 on 15 September 2017 to 24:00 on 29 September 2017.[needs update]
According to the Catalan government, the following people were entitled to vote in the referendum:
Those who have the political condition of Catalan, are 18 years of age or older on the voting day, are not under any of the situations that legally deprive the right to vote and are on the electoral roll.
Those Catalans currently residing abroad and who have their last residence in Catalonia, fulfil all the legal requirements, and have formally applied to take part in the voting process.
The question of the referendum was asked "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?".
Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?
Voleu que Catalunya sigui un estat independent en forma de república?
¿Quiere que Cataluña sea un estado independiente en forma de república?
Voletz que Catalonha vengue un estat independent en forma de republica?
Sinn Féin representatives meeting Catalan President Carles Puigdemont ahead of the referendum.
Of these international observers, those summoned by Diplocat are not recognised by the UN as such in not recognising this Diplocat as an international observer.
Due to some alleged irregularities and to the actions taken by the national police and civil guard, the international observers, invited by the Generalitat, declared that the referendum results could not be considered valid as the process failed to meet the minimum international standards for elections. They also criticized the police violence.
One of the many gatherings across the Basque Country in support of the Catalan vote (Zarautz)
Demonstration in Bilbao in solidarity with the Catalan referendum, 16 September 2017
Basque Autonomous Community: The regional parliament showed its sympathy and support for the referendum and strongly criticised the Spanish government's stance on the issue. It denounced any measures taken against the vote or democracy altogether. Tens of thousands took to the streets of Bilbao at two different dates in September in support of the Catalan referendum, sovereignty and democracy. The latter was attended by the three main political forces of the Basque Autonomous Community, Geroa Bai, Basque nationalist unions ELA and LAB, and high-ranking public officials like the mayors of San Sebastián and Bilbao, E. Goia and J.M. Aburto.ETA, for its part, issued a statement endorsing the referendum.
Navarre: The parliament of Navarre denounced the Spanish government's de facto "takeover" of the Catalan devolution and what the parliament referred to as a repressive approach.
Galicia: Over 3,000 people marched through the streets of Santiago in Galicia to show their solidarity with the Catalan vote. The demonstration was attended by representatives of En Marea and BNG.
Madrid: A discussion event in favour of the referendum was organised in a public venue but relocated following the Spanish Conservatives' cancellation demand to the mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena, on the grounds that it "incites illegal actions", "defies institutions and constitutional legality" and "offends the monarchy". A judge then stepped in ordering a ban on an event held in a public venue, but it was eventually held on 17 September in an independent theater, growing into a rally for the freedom of expression in the street. The mayor of Madrid, besides requesting the Spanish premier's resignation for his "inability to dialogue", also criticised the Catalan referendum for "not meeting the minimum standards" and the violence enforced by the Spanish police in Catalonia.
UN member states
Belgium: Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel reaffirmed the government's call for political dialogue in Spain, and made an official reaction to the violence used to obstruct the referendum, on Twitter on 1 October: "Violence can never be the answer! We condemn all forms of violence and reaffirm our call for political dialogue #CatalanReferendum #Spain".
China: In response to a journalist's question, on 28 September 2017 foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the People's Republic of China believes "the issue of Catalonia belongs to the domestic affairs of Spain. We believe that the Spanish central government can properly handle relevant issues and maintain national solidarity, unity and prosperity".
France: On 16 June, President Emmanuel Macron stated that he considers the question of Catalan independence to be an internal issue of Spain.
Germany: On 8 September, Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, stated that Germany was interested in stability in Spain and that for this it was necessary that the law, including the Spanish constitution, was respected at all levels. The German government had issued a similar statement previously in 2015.
Hungary: On 18 September, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács announced that they would "respect the will of the people". At the same time, he called the independence issue an "internal issue of Spain and Catalonia".
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskait? said that the referendum on Catalonia's independence did not comply with the Spanish Constitution, but to use force is a failure of the Spanish authorities. The President believes that Madrid and Barcelona will, in any case, speak with one another and look for solutions to democratic problems.
Portugal: Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva declined to comment on the referendum in Catalonia on 27 September, but believes that the Spanish government will be able to resolve the issue, in agreement with the Spanish constitution and law. Augusto Santos Silva said that this is an internal affair of Spain. In a manifesto signed by almost a hundred people, academics, deputies, journalists, doctors, journalists and notably by the former socialist presidential candidate Manuel Alegre and the former leader of the Left BlocFrancisco Louçã appealed to a "negotiated political solution" to the political situation in Catalonia, considering themselves "outraged" by the civil rights abuses committed by the Spanish Government.
Russian Federation: The head of the international affairs committee at Russia's upper house Konstantin Kosachev called on the Spanish government to lead a dialogue with the Catalans. Otherwise their contradictions will only deepen, which could end with the breakup of the state, as it was also evident in Ukraine. This polling, like the earlier polling in Iraqi Kurdistan, "is another clear and evident clash of the basic principles the humanity follows: the territorial integrity and the right to self-determination". "A state should be talking to its citizens, should reach accord. Like we are doing in Russia."
Serbia: Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Da?i?, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, stated that Catalonia wants to repeat the example of Kosovo, by declaring unilateral independence without any agreement from Madrid. He stated that Serbia cannot accept such a model and that it is not a political issue but a problem of international law.
United Kingdom: Foreign Secretary, and future Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the referendum as an internal issue for Spain, saying "Spain is a close ally and a good friend, whose strength and unity matters to the UK", while also insisting rule of law be upheld.
United States: On 13 April, the embassy in Madrid stated that the U.S. sees the question of Catalan independence as an internal issue of Spain. On 26 September, President Donald Trump, during his meeting with Mariano Rajoy, said that "Spain is a great country and it should remain united", but expressed his doubts on whether a referendum will be held, stating that "I think that nobody knows if they are gonna have a vote. The President would say they are not going to have a vote. But I think that the people would be very much opposed to that." Earlier that month, the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert insisted in that the referendum is an internal affair of Spain and that the US "will work with whatever government or entity that comes out of it".
Other political parties, groups and sub-national governments
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party, issued a statement condemning the violence in Catalonia and called on the British government to appeal to the Spanish government to end its crackdown in Catalonia. Later, previous Labour leader Ed Milliband issued a similar statement, describing scenes as "appalling" and saying "the U.K. government cannot just stay silent".
Scotland: On 16 September, Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, said: "The decision over Catalonia's future direction is a matter for the people who live there, and the Catalan and Spanish Governments are perfectly entitled to take positions for and against independence. However, all peoples have the right to self-determination and to choose the form of government best suited to their needs, a principle which is enshrined in the UN Charter."
Republic of Ireland: Mick Barry TD of Solidarity attended the referendum as an international observer, the party condemned the violence and showed support for the declaration of a general strike. On 22 September, in a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the Lord Mayor, Mícheál Mac Donncha, regretted the legal prosecution of over 700 Catalan Mayors and urged them "to find a political solution to Catalonia's legitimate claims and ask you to stop threats on my fellow Mayors".
Denmark: A group of 17 Danish MPs from seven parties criticised the growing tensions in the weeks before the referendum and called on the Spanish government to play a constructive role and encourage political dialogue.
The Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini expressed his solidarity to the Catalan people after the arrests of 14 Catalan government officials; however, he also kept distance from the Catalan referendum calling it "a stretch" against the Spanish law.
Sardinia: The regional government expressed its support and solidarity to the Catalan community through a specific resolution approved by the regional council, and offered to print ballots for the referendum and to guard them, rejecting the negative attitude of the Spanish government towards political dialogue. On 25 October, the Sardinian council issued a new resolution condemning the use of violence adopted by the Civil Guard and expressing the wish that Catalans may pursue a pacific path towards the right to choose any political option, including self-determination.
Belgium: On 20 September, the Minister-President of the Flemish RegionGeert Bourgeois said: "I regret the recent escalation with a display of power from both the police and court in the Catalan capital and I urgently call upon the Spanish government to go into dialogue with the Catalan government, the legitimate representative of the Catalan people. If this is currently impossible, there must be international mediation."
Switzerland: On 27 September, a group of MPs from all parties of the Council of States sent a letter to the Spanish government supporting the Catalan referendum, stating that "without taking a decision on the choice to be made, we believe that the right of the Catalan people to determine their future must be respected", and condemning the arrests of people and seizure of voting material as "unworthy of a modern and democratic state".
On 14 September, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that the EU "would follow and respect the rulings of the Spanish constitutional court and parliament". Further, while the EU would respect the choice if a "yes" for Catalan independence were to come to pass, Juncker stated that Catalonia could not become an EU member the day after the vote.
On 23 September, the UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Alfred de Zayas, issued a media statement where he advocates for the right of self-determination of Catalan people, reminding "[t]he Spanish Constitution itself stipulates in its articles 10 and 96 the supremacy of international law and in particular international human rights law over of domestic law" and that "self-determination is not limited to the decolonisation context".
On 1 October 2017 referendum
Queues of voters at polling stations for the referendum
Pollsters generally started using the proposed referendum question ("Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?") after it was revealed in early June 2017.
The Centre for Opinion Studies (Centre d'Estudis d'Opinió, CEO) polled respondents on their intentions rather than asking them the actual referendum question. In its March 2017 poll, aside from asking respondents whether they would want Catalonia to become an independent state, it asked their intents in the event of a referendum on the independence of Catalonia being called and organised by the Government of Catalonia without agreement from the Spanish Government. In a July 2017 poll a similar question was proposed, with the difference that it asked about the actual 1 October referendum.
(Note: voters who were not willing to vote were primarily those opposed to independence and/or a referendum being held, so support for independence among those who were certain to vote was expected to be high.)
The Catalan government estimated that polling stations representing up to 770,000 potential voters--14.5% of all registered voters--were closed down by police in raids, with any votes cast in those stations either seized, lost or inaccessible and therefore not counted. Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull argued that turnout would have been higher were it not for Spanish police suppression. Catalan government officials argued that calculation by experts showed that without police pressure and closures, turnout could have reached up to 55%.
Earlier in the day, a universal census was introduced, so any Catalan elector going out to vote could do so at any one of the still functioning polling stations. Notorious examples of this included President Puigdemont himself--who voted in Cornellà del Terri instead of Sant Julià de Ramis where he was registered to vote, foiling a police operation to track him down along the way--or Parliament of Catalonia Speaker Carme Forcadell.
Due in part to the deactivation and repeated blocking by the police of the computer programs used to implement universal census and result reporting, some alleged irregularities were reported by Spanish media during the celebration of the referendum. Among them, people recorded voting more than once, votes made by non-Catalan people not included in the census or images of people voting several times, including journalists. Other media reported the system did not validate the second attempt when voting, but it couldn't be confirmed that this system worked during the whole process.
The Catalan government was not allowed to use the same ballot boxes used in other elections and referendums because they are owned by the Spanish government, so different ballot boxes were used, those were described as translucent by some media and opaque by some others in contrast to the transparent ballot boxes used in elections. Ballots and ballot boxes were transported together, which according to Spanish media raised doubts about whether those ballots were removed or not prior to the vote. Another controversial footage shows ballot boxes placed in the street, where any person could submit their vote without census control. According to a Catalan newspaper, a volunteer declared that it was "a symbolic vote" in Ramon i Cajal school, Barcelona, after Spanish police removed the ballot boxes at another nearby polling station.
There was no electoral board as it dissolved itself on 22 September to avoid being fined by the Constitutional Court and the counting system was blocked by the Guardia civil following orders from the Catalan High Court Justice. Guardia Civil also shut down a WordPress.com blog which alleged to be used as a voting system in the referendum, the Catalan government said they didn't know about its existence.
The Spanish Government denounced that the rules of the referendum that were changed 45 minutes before opening. The new rules included the universal census according to which any citizen could vote in any voting center even if it was not the one originally assigned. They also accepted the use of non-official ballots printed at home and made optional the requirement of using envelopes.
Controversy over the results
The publication of the results generated controversy both for the lack of basic electoral warranties, as for the lack of coherence between the results that were published after 95% of the votes had been tallied and the official results published five days later.
One analyst said that the large pro-independence vote (90% by official estimates) could actually be a sign that many people did not vote at all, and that the referendum lacked the conditions for fairness.
In 71 municipalities the number of "yes" votes tallied were more than the number of registered voters for those municipalities, which could be partly explained by the "universal census" system introduced earlier in the day allowing people to vote in a different poll station than the one they were assigned.
The Civil Guard delivered a report to the Spanish High Court with recordings of conversations that allegedly demonstrate that "the results of the referendum were decided in the days leading up to its holding".
In the elections of December 2017 called by Spanish Prime Minister, parties supporting independence got 47.5% of the votes, but due to the high level of participation that was 33,970 more votes than 'Yes' votes were cast during the referendum.
On 3 October 2017, Carles Puigdemont said that his government intends to act on the result of the referendum "at the end of this week or the beginning of next" and declare independence from Spain. Puigdemont would go before the Catalan Parliament to address them on Monday 9 October 2017, pending the agreement of other political parties.
On 4 October 2017, Mireia Boya, a lawmaker of the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), announced that a declaration of independence would likely come after the parliamentary session on 9 October.
The King of Spain, Felipe VI, called the Catalan referendum "illegal" and appealed to the union [of Spain], calling the situation "extremely serious".
According to Swiss national radio, the Foreign Ministry of Switzerland has offered to mediate between the two sides in the crisis. However, on 16 October 2017 the Foreign Ministry of Switzerland released a press note declaring that no formal offer was made, also stating that the independent aspirations in Catalonia are an internal affair of Spain and should be resolved within its constitutional order. It also made clear that Switzerland fully respects Spanish Sovereignty and that in any case any facilitation of the process could only take place in case that both sides requested it.
The Spanish police and Guardia Civil mounted operations to close the polling stations. The security forces met resistance from citizens who obstructed their access to the voting tables; in Sant Julia de Ramis, where Puigdemont was expected to vote, they were joined by Corps of Firefighters of Catalonia members who formed a "human shield" separating the police from civilians to help obstruct their access to the polling station. The police used force to try to reach the voting tables, in some cases using batons against firefighters and civilians, and dragged some of them away. The police made multiple charges. In some other incidents the security forces were surrounded and driven out by the crowds. According to the Ministry of the Interior, rubber bullets (balls) were only used against demonstrators in one of those incidents in the Barcelona's Eixample district. There were incidents at polling stations in Barcelona, Girona and elsewhere; the police forced entry to the premises, ejected the occupants and seized ballot boxes, some of them containing votes.
The Spanish government endorsed the police actions ordered by the regional high court. Carles Puigdemont accused Spanish authorities of "unjustified, disproportionate and irresponsible violence" and showing a "dreadful external image of Spain" while Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticized what they called "excessive and unnecessary use of force" by the National Police and the Civil Guard. The Spanish Coordinator for Prevention against Torture defined the police action as a "repression laboratory".Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena stated Puigdemont ignored the repeated warnings he received about the escalation of violence if the referendum was held.
According to El País, after the first reports of violence, the government canceled the order given to the security forces, which pulled out early from the polling centers. Catalan Ombudsman Rafael Ribó, said there was evidence Angela Merkel asked Mariano Rajoy to stop police violence.
Various images and reports used to magnify the claims of police violence were circulated but were later found to be inaccurate or photoshopped, and reports argued later that such posts, as well as conspiracy theories, had been amplified through the same network of social network profiles that had earlier promoted alt-right and pro-Putin views during earlier elections in Western countries. A Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) councillor accused the police of deliberately breaking her fingers one by one and of sexual abuse during a polling station evacuation, but later investigation disproved these statements. A real picture of an elderly woman bleeding in the head as a consequence of a police charge was chosen as one of the "Bloomberg's 100 photos of the 2017". The Spanish Ministry of the Interior instructed the Spanish Attorney General to investigate whether the accusations of police sexual abuse against protesters made by Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, who had mentioned the councilor's statements, could be considered a legal offense of slander against Spanish Law enforcement organisations.
Spanish National Police storm Institut Pau Claris polling station on 1 October 2017
According to the judge, there were 218 persons injured on that day in the city of Barcelona alone, 20 of whom were agents. According to various sources previously reported figures for civilians and police may have been exaggerated. According to the Generalitat de Catalunya, 844 people requested the services of the Catalan emergency health service, this number includes people with irritation by gas and anxiety attacks. Of those injured, most were minor, but four people were hospitalised by the emergency health service and of those, two were in serious condition, one due to impact from a rubber ball in the eye in the protests, the other for unrelated causes.
There was a police charge near school Ramon Llull. When police officers tried to enter inside the polling station, voters responded with a sit-in protest to block their way in. Few minutes later more anti-riot police was deployed in the zone and they could find the way in after breaking the polling station door. Police officers confiscated the ballot boxes, some of them with votes inside. In their way out, voters blocked the passage of the police cars standing or sitting in front of the police vehicles. Some of them harassing and throwing fences, umbrellas and other objects against the agents, among them the man who was subsequently injured in the eye. The agents responded shooting rubber balls. The man injured by the rubber ball lost the vision in one eye and he sued 3 members of the Spanish National Police, adducing that one shot him directly to his face. One witness, the journalist who recorded the images, testified he saw that a police officer pointed and shot horizontally, directly against demonstrators at a distance not exceeding 15 meters, hitting and injuring the man in the eye, which can be seen in the footage; according to four witnesses, there was no unrest at the moment the police charge and shots took place. 13 police officers are being investigated for their actions in that polling station, even though the agent that shot the rubber bullet has not been identified yet.
Initially, the Ministry of the Interior said 431 agents were injured, 39 of them requiring immediate medical treatment and the remaining 392 having injuries from bruises, scrapes, kicks and/or bites. After a question from Basque senator Jon Iñarritu some months later, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior recognised that the number was much lower and stated that the number of police officers injured was 111. During the hearings of the trial of Catalonia independence leaders in February 2019, Saenz de Santamaría reduced that figure further to 93, down from the initial 400. In a document given to the judge investigating the police action during the day of the referendum in Barcelona, Spanish police reported around 40 injuries, including officers who acted in Girona and Sabadell, which include a "trauma on a finger", a "twisted foot" and a "nose scratch". The Police didn't provide medical reports for some of them and didn't explain how they were produced.
According to the final report by the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) of the Generalitat, there were 1,066 people attended by the Catalan hospitals in connection with the Catalan Referendum: 966 on 1 October 2017 and 75 during 2-4 October.
According to the severity, the reports indicates that 886 (=823+63) were categorised as mild, 173 (=163+10) as moderate and 7 (=5+2) as severe. On 20 October 2017, the last injured person left the hospital.
Regarding the age distribution: 10,4% of them were elderly people (>65 years old) and 23 of them were over 79 years old. Also, 2.1% were underage, including 2 children under 11 years old.
This figures include 12 police officers: 9 Policía Nacional, 2 Guardia Civil and 1 Mossos d'Esquadra.
The Catalan Health Officer is planning to sue the Partido Popular general coordinator, Mr Fernando Martínez-Maillo, for his qualification as a "great farce" of the total number of injured persons.
On 19 February 2018, in the hearing for the injuries in the village of Castellgalí, a Guardia Civil policeman testified before the judge that he only found passive resistance, thus contradicting a Spanish police statement, which claimed that violence, kicks and spitting took place at that location.
According to a 2020 study, the crackdown by the Spanish state on Catalan activists "increased public sympathy for independence for a short period, and heightened animosity towards actors perceived to be associated or complicit with the Spanish state."
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(October 2017)
As of August 2017 the spread between Spanish 10-year government debt and German bonds was close to its narrowest in seven years; however, since the start of July the yield on the Catalan regional government's bonds had jumped by about 50 basis points, signaling unease among investors in regards to the referendum issue.
Stratfor suggested financial market disruption is due to the political upheaval. Predrag Dukic, senior equity sales trader at CM Capital Markets Bolsa, wrote: "The independence movement seeks to paralyze the region with strikes, disobedience, etc., a nightmare scenario for what until yesterday seemed a strong Spanish economic recovery." Markus Schomer, chief global economist at PineBridge Investments, suggested that the uncertainty both in and outside of Spain has made it hard to price the scenarios into final markets so far. Further he commented a strong approval could result in a euro −0.0255% sell off, just as in the aftermath of the German federal election the previous week. "I don't think there is an immediate change coming from that referendum. It'll take quite a bit longer to assess where this is going and what this will mean, how the EU will react, how the Spanish government will react. So I don't think you'll see people adjusting their portfolios on Monday, but you could get the classic knee-jerk, risk-off reaction."
Pro-independence supporters during a rally in Barcelona, 10 October 2017
On 10 October in a speech in front of the Catalan parliament Puigdemont stated that he considered the referendum results to be valid and in consequence used the following wording: "I assume the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent state in the shape of a republic", before adding that he would "ask Parliament to suspend the effects of the declaration of independence". In response the Central government made a formal request for him to answer before the Monday 16 October 2017 if he declared independence asking specifically for yes or no answer clarifying that any answer different than a "no" would be interpreted as a "yes". Along with the formal request there was also an offer from the central government negotiated with the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party to evaluate the situation of Catalonia within Spain and to study possible reforms, if needed, to the Spanish Constitution. On 16 October 2017 Puigdemont gave a response that did not address the issue of whether or not there had been a declaration of independence. this triggered a second deadline of 10 am on Thursday 19 October for them to backtrack before direct rule was imposed. The Spanish government subsequently offered to abort the suspension of self-rule if the Catalan government called for regional elections. The response from Puigdemont to the second deadline was again not clear. Since he refused to abandon his independence push, on 21 October the Spanish government initiated the implementation of article 155 of the Spanish constitution.
On 27 October 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence from Spain. The proposal presented by the pro-independence political parties Junts pel Sí and Popular Unity Candidacy was approved with 70 votes in favor 10 against and 2 blank votes. 55 MPs from the opposition refused to be present during the voting after the legal services of the Catalan Parliament advised that the voting could not take place as the law in which it was based had been suspended by the Constitutional Court. Within hours, the Spanish Senate approved actions proposed by the Spanish government to invoke Article 155 and assume direct control over some of Catalonia's autonomous powers. The measure was passed with 214 votes in favour, 47 against and 1 abstention. The measure is intended to be temporary; its claimed objective being to "re-establish the rule of law" and restore autonomy after new elections. The first measures taken by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy after the approval by the senate was to fire the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet, dissolving the Parliament of Catalonia and scheduling fresh Catalan elections on 21 December 2017.
On 16 January 2018, the Spanish Constitutional Court issued a temporary restraining order regarding the work of the Catalan Government commission that investigates the violation of fundamental rights in Catalonia.
Press coverage and Internet
Different sources describe aspects of the events differently according to their political stance. Notable examples include the coverage of Spanish TV channel TVE (Televisión Española) and Catalan channel TV3. TV3 covered the referendum and the police violence regularly while TVE mainly emphasised the Spanish government's position on its legality. TVE media coverage was criticised by Televisión Española information council, calling for the resignation of the entire direction. TV3 has been criticized both within and outside Catalonia as a mouthpiece for the independence movement.
Various media reported on fake images of police violence against civilians that were posted in social networks. They included images of people injured in other events, including footage from strikes and anti-austerity protests 4-5 years prior, Turkish police charges and protests by miners. The news sites Okdiario and Periodista Digital were also accused of falsely trying to discredit some of those involved in police violence episodes.
The Spanish newspaper El País argued that "the network of fake-news producers that Russia has employed to weaken the United States and the European Union is now operating at full speed on Catalonia", involving a network of Russian media outlets and social network bots which, according to the argument, aimed to influence local and global discussion of events. Later investigations by Medium-DFRL said it found support for some but not all of the arguments made by Spanish outlets. It is argued that the goal wasn't specifically to support Catalan independence but to "foment divisions to gradually undermine Europe's democracy and institutions" and at discrediting Spanish legal and political authorities, while Russian authorities have denied that Russian actors had any involvement.
Several documentaries have been made about the day of the referendum, the most important ones being 1-O [ca] produced by Mediapro and El primer dia d'octubre produced by La Directa and released for free in YouTube.
Many books about the topic were published as well, including Operació urnes ("Operation Ballot Boxes"), explaining how the ballot boxes were distributed around Catalonia, and Dies que duraran anys ("Days That Will Last for Years"), a photo book by Jordi Borràs. Those two being the first and the third top-sellers in the category of non-fiction in Catalan language during the Diada de Sant Jordi of 2018.
On 15 June, the exhibition 55 Ballot Boxes for Freedom opened in Brussels, with artwork inspired by the ballot boxes of the Catalan referendum.
Netflix used images from the police action during the day of the referendum to promote Black Mirror series in Spain.
In February 2020, Catalan nationalists and Spanish leaders came to negotiate on Catalonia's political future. Included in Catalan nationalists' two points was a retroactive legalization of the 2017 independence referendum. The terms have not been accepted but it is the beginning of open negotiations. Fifteen representatives began talks with a discussion of the history of the Catalan crisis. Despite disagreement on when it began, the two sides concurred that the People's Party bore the overall responsibility in its fight against the Statute of Autonomy. It was agreed that negotiations would continue, with plans for monthly meetings and plenary sessions every six months. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled these plans, but in September 2020, leaders discussed resuming negotiations.
^ abHilary Clarke, Isa Soares and Vasco Cotovio (2 October 2017). "Catalonia referendum plunges Spain into political crisis". CNN. Retrieved 2017. Turnout was about 42% of the 5.3 million eligible voters... Turull said more people would have voted had it not been for Spanish police suppression. Up to 770,000 votes were lost as a result of the crackdowns at police stations, the Catalan government estimated.
^ abGerard Pruina (2 October 2017). "El 'sí' a la independència s'imposa amb 2.020.144 vots, el 90%". Ara.Cat. Retrieved 2017. Els encarregats de donar els resultats des del Centre Internacional de Premsa, el vicepresident, Oriol Junqueras; el conseller de la Presidència, Jordi Turull, i el conseller d'Exteriors, Raül Romeva, han remarcat contínuament que, tot i que els 2.248.000 vots no suposen 'per se' el 50% del cens, els càlculs dels experts apunten que sense pressió policial i tancament de col·legis s'hauria pogut arribar al 55% de participació.
^RESPUESTA D EL GOBIERNO 684/37958 (Report) (in Spanish). Senado. 22 March 2018. Retrieved 2018. En relación con la pregunta de referencia, se informa que 111 miembros de las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad del Estado fueron contusionados
^Johnson, Boris (1 October 2017). "twitter.com". @BorisJohnson. Retrieved 2017. The Catalonian referendum is a matter for the Spanish govt & people. Imp that Spanish constitution respected & the rule of law upheld. (1/2)
^"La mujer que aseguró que le habían roto los dedos de una mano dice ahora que solo tiene una inflamación" (in Spanish). ABC. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 2017. Marta Torrecillas envió un mensaje a una amiga en el que aseguraba que la Policía le había desalojado de un colegio electoral tirándola por las escaleras, arrojándole cosas y rompiéndole los dedos de la mano expresamente uno a uno. Sin embargo, en las imágenes del desalojo del citado colegio se ve cómo Torrecillas se tira al suelo cuando los agentes la invitan a abandonar el lugar y la agarran para que lo haga. Marta Torrecillas sent a message to a friend in which she claimed that the police had evicted her from an electoral college by throwing her down the stairs, throwing things at her and breaking her fingers expressly one by one. Nevertheless, in the images of the eviction of the mentioned school it is seen how Torrecillas thrown herself to the ground when the agents asked her to leave the place and they catch her so that she does it
^Preston, Peter (8 October 2017). "Violence in Catalonia needed closer scrutiny in age of fake news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017. With fake news apparently leaking from every media orifice, you'd have hoped for a little more diligence over those Catalan referendum demonstration figures and images. Over to the fact-checkers ... (...) The reporting of what happened - including the detail of those 893 injured voters - hadn't been independently checked.
^"Analysts: Russia May Be Helping Catalonia Secessionists". VOA. 29 September 2017. Retrieved 2017. "It's not that Russia necessarily wants the independence of Catalonia. What it's principally seeking is to foment divisions to gradually undermine Europe's democracy and institutions," said Brett Schaffer, an analyst of the Alliance to Safeguard Democracy, a project supported by the German Marshall Fund, which monitors pro-Kremlin information networks.