Firefighters formed a human chain to protect Catalan voters from police as their violent efforts to prevent the independence referendum drew worldwide condemnation.
The world has been stunned by the Spanish Government’s heavyhanded attempt to stop the banned referendum going ahead, with police firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds, dragging peaceful protestors from the ground and smashing glass to access polling booths and seize ballot boxes.
A court declared the vote unlawful and police were out early to stop voting from taking place. More than 460 people have been injured so far.
An early flashpoint was the town of San Julia de Ramis, where Catalonia’s president was expected to vote and where police descended to prevent him.
Firefighters, who had previously pledged to defend the voting in the referendum, formed the chain as police clashed with voters.
Pictures and video quickly became the defining images of the clashes, which have been condemned by figures from Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
On Thursday, firefighters gathered on Barcelona’s Museum of the Catalunya with a banner saying ‘Love Democracy’ to protest the Spanish Government’s resistance to the referendum.
Corbyn called the violence by police “shocking” and said Madrid should act to end it.
Politicians with ties to other separatist movements also condemned the violence.
Scottish First Minister, who fought and lost a referendum campaign over making Scotland independent, said: “Regardless of views on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed”.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who is in power in a coalition with Flemish separatists, said: “Violence can never be the answer!”