Catalans describe moment they were hurt in vote chaos

3 min

Barcelona (AFP)

From a grandmother whose wrist was broken to an independence supporter violently hit in the head, several people who were injured by police during Catalonia's independence referendum banned by Madrid told AFP of their ordeal.

Shocking footage of police violence went round the world, sparking controversy over what critics described as "the disproportionate use" of police force and the "humiliation" of voters -- sometimes elderly -- who were roughed up.

Police had descended on polling stations early Sunday to stop a referendum deemed illegal by Madrid and unconstitutional by Spain's Constitutional Court.

On Monday, four remained in hospital including two "in a serious but stable state" -- one man aged around 70 who had a heart attack in Lerida and another in Barcelona who got a rubber bullet in the eye, according to emergency services.

Catalonia, whose leaders are determined to split the region from Spain, said Monday that 893 people received medical attention -- a figure disputed by Madrid.

- 'For me it was brutal' -

Magdalena Clarena Dabant, 70, a former weaver in a textiles factory, has her arm in a plaster cast since she decided to do "passive resistance" in her home village of Fonollosa to stop a ballot box from being seized.

"At least 60 Guardia Civil police arrived in our village of 300 inhabitants," she told AFP.

"To stop them, many voters sat on the floor, I sat on a chair. They told me to go away, I responded I wouldn't move.

"They grabbed me by the arm, strongly, and I fell on the floor. In hospital they told me I had the wrist broken," she said.

"They didn't bring out the batons. But for me it was brutal, like at the time of the dictatorship (of Francisco Franco from 1939 to 1975)."

"I was only going to vote, I was happy. They took our ballot box but we went to vote in the neighbouring village."

- Rubber bullets -

In Barcelona, the Ramon Llull school, used as a polling station, was one of those targeted by riot police.

David Pujol, a 37-year-old teacher, was taking part in a nearby sit-in.

"There were around 450 people sitting on the ground with a non-violent attitude. Riot police starting to charge, hit people with batons and shot rubber bullets, in the air and then on people.

"A man was hit in the face, just in front of me. We were going to help him but there was a loud noise, I felt pain in my leg. When they saw my five-centimetre (two-inch) injury, they told me in hospital it was from a rubber bullet."

- Seven stitches -

In the city of Tarragona, riot police who came to confiscate ballot boxes in a school found themselves surrounded by protesters who made them back away, shouting "get out," according to amateur videos.

Sergi Albaran, 44, the local president of the ERC pro-independence regional party, is going to file an official complaint for his seven-centimetre head injury, he said.

His lawyer sent AFP a copy of the medical certificate of his injury.

"Police had come with dozens of vehicles and had already taken ballot boxes with ballot papers inside. We were shouting "go away'."

"There were very tense moments. Around 20 police found themselves pushed into a corner by the crowd. They were armed, we weren't," he said.

"One of the policemen hit me on the head with his shield, another with his baton. I fell. As we went to an ambulance, one of the policemen hit me again. I had seven stitches on my forehead and head."