Violent Protests Erupt As Support For Catalan Independence Movement Grows

Approximately 850 people have been injured across Catalonia due to police clashing with protesters over a referendum on Catalonia’s independence from Spain this Sunday. According to the Catalonia government, about 90 percent of the 2.25 million voters supported the region’s independence from Spain, despite the Spanish government ruling the referendum unconstitutional. Many outside of Spain strongly condemned the actions of the Spanish government, which chose to use aggressive police force against civilians. In an article from the Guardian, one voter named Elisa Arouca explained how the display of force from the police lead her to change her mind about the vote, “The national police and civil guard are treating us like criminals. I was most likely going to vote no until the national police sent me flying. Now I will try to vote yes.” In addition to outrage from citizens, the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, also voiced her displeasure by calling on the Spanish Prime Minister to resign, “All the red lines have been crossed and today marks a turning point. Now I believe we’ll be thousands calling for Rajoy to resign, not only in Catalonia but across the entire country.”

Due to the actions of Spanish politicians and Spain’s recent financial troubles, the efforts of Catalan secessionists have significantly ramped up over the past few years. A big turning point occurred in 2010 when the Constitutional Court of Spain declared crucial parts of Catalonia’s successful statute of autonomy as unconstitutional. The decision led to what many people believe to be one of the biggest demonstrations in the history of the Catalonia region, where it is estimated that approximately one million people marched on the streets of Barcelona, the region’s capital, to protest the ruling from the Spanish government. Especially considering Spain’s financial troubles, a successful Catalonia independence movement would bring massive ramifications for the country. Catalonia is one of the richest regions in Spain along with being the country’s top tourist location. If the region’s independence were granted, Spain would lose about 20 percent of its economy. Additionally, greater instability could lead to a stronger push for Basque independence efforts, another separatist movement in Spain.

Catalonia is a region that holds it own language and culture far different than that of Spain, and many civilians within the region do not even consider themselves as Spanish. According to polls from recent years, a little under 50 percent of the population in the region actually want to separate from Spain, making the Catalonia independence efforts a legitimate movement. With that said, given events that occurred this Sunday, the movement will become even more polarized and support from within Catalonia to secede from Spain may only grow stronger. While much remains to be seen on the fallout from the violent protests, all signs indicate that Spain may be headed towards its biggest political crisis since the era of Francisco Franco.

EJ Patterson