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+++ Catalan independence vote: Live updates +++

Catalan officials say 90 percent of voters said "yes" to independence from Spain in a referendum banned by the country's central government. The Catalan leader said the region had "gained the right" to its own state.

— The camp saying "yes" to independence has won 90 percent in Catalonia's unauthorized independence referendum, according to the region's authorities, following a day of voting marred by violence.

— After voting concluded, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said Catalonia has earned the right to independence from Spain. Spain's central government and highest court have declared the referendum invalid.

— Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said no referendum had been held and blamed the violence on the Catalan government.

Spanish police fired rubber bullets at protesters outside a polling station to try to stop voting in the referendum, and a total of more than 844 people were reported injured in clashes during voting. 

All updates in Central European Summer Time (UTC +2)

00.41 The "yes" camp has won 90 percent in Catalonia's unauthorized independence referendum, said a spokesman for the Spanish region's government, adding that 2.26 million votes had been counted with over 2 million in favor of secession. The "no" camp accounted for 7.9 percent of the ballot. This would be a turnout of about 42 percent of Catalonia's 5.34 million voters.

"Today is a victory for democracy and the people who defended it peacefully," the spokesman told reporters.

23:22  Over 40 unions and Catalan associations called a region-wide strike for Tuesday. In a statement, UGT and CCOO, Spain's biggest unions, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a pro-independence civil association, and 41 other organisations called for the work stoppage due to "the grave violation of rights and freedoms."

22:55 Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says Catalonia has "gained the right to have an independent state with the status of a republic."

He says results will be forwarded "in the coming days" to the Catalan parliament. 

In Madrid's Puerta del Sol, government opponents earlier gathered in solidarity with Catalonia, calling for Prime Minister Rajoy to stand down. 

Shouts of "Madrid is with the people of Catalonia" are heard, with the demonstration continuing as night descended.

22:30 The number of injured during the day of voting in Catalonia has risen to 844, according to Catalonia's regional government. Meanwhile, pro-independence groups and trade unions have called for a general strike in the northeastern region, slated for October 3.

22:00 One reason the scenes of violence by police are particularly resonant in Spain are the parallels that are already being drawn by the political left with the era of late Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco. Spain's democracy is less than 40 years old.

21:50 Defeated German candidate to be chancellor Martin Schulz has spoken on the issue.

"The escalation in Spain is worrying. Madrid and Barcelona have to de-escalate immediately and seek dialogue," said the leader of Germany's Social Democrats.

21:15 A group of judges in Catalonia has opened an investigation into the actions of the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan regional police) for not stopping the election. 

21: 10 Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says rule of law has prevailed in Catalonia, given that courts had blocked the referendum.

"Today there has not been a self-determination referendum in Catalonia. The rule of law remains in force with all its strength," Rajoy said in a televised address.

21: 05 Spain's territorial integrity "is at risk," says opposition leader Pedro Sanchez.

Watch video 01:25

Catalans vote on split from Spain despite crackdown

Sanchez stresses his center-left PSOE party "backs the territorial integrity of our country, which today is at risk."

However, images of police brutality against Catalans "are clearly images that no democrat can approve," Sanchez notes, blaming both Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan secessionists for the crisis, saying both their policies have failed "in the worst possible way."

20:11 Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau is demanding that Spain's conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy resign after Spanish riot police were seen beating and kicking people as part of efforts to shut down the vote.

Colau told broadcaster TV3 that "Rajoy has been a coward, hiding behind the prosecutors and courts. Today he crossed all the red lines with the police actions against normal people, old people, families who were defending their fundamental rights."

"It seems obvious to me that Mariano Rajoy should resign."

19:39 Police union for the regional Catalan Mossos d'Esquadro SICME says it deeply regrets that 467 people were injured as a result of police intervention. "As a modern and democratic police force, we do not understand any action that is not governed by sense, opportunity and proportionality, since the ultimate goal must always be the maintenance of peace and coexistence."

Those officers seen firing rubber bullets in the street were from the National Police, not the Mossos.

19:26 British Trade Minister Liam Fox condemns the violence in Catalonia, but says the referendum is a matter for the Spanish government.

18:52 Catalonia's regional government spokesman says the Spanish government will be made to answer to international courts for violence surrounding the banned referendum.

18:30 More than 460 people have been injured in the police crackdown, Catalan officials have said. 

18:10  Claudi C., a young man who was waiting at the doors of a polling station explained to Catalonia's La Vanguardia newspaper that he and others had been sitting in the entrance to form a human barrier. A standoff with police ensued. 

"Finally, when they saw that the people had no intention of leaving, the officers started to charge with the batons," said Claudi C. "They took personal objects off us to get us to move; bags, wallets. They broke my glasses. It was a deplorable scene. My brother ended up going to hospital."

Such scenes appear to have been replicated across the region. However, in some polling stations voting went ahead as planned. One reason for the disparity may be the different approaches taken by branches of the police.

Catalonia's regional police the Mossos d'Esquadra have been more unwilling to use violence to enter polling stations. The Mossos are held in affection by many Catalans, particularly after they hunted down a cell of Islamists accused of staging attacks in Catalonia in August that killed 16 people.

This tweet shows "Mossos watching the vote take place right now at Mireia School."

The national Guardia Civil, meanwhile, have been branded (Spanish Prime Minister Mariano) "Rajoy's thugs" on Twitter, for their generally tougher line.

17:55 The reason FC Barcelona played their match behind closed doors was not security related but rather a protest against the violence between police and protesters, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu says. 

 "Today there will be a game of football played but it has nothing to do with normality."

17:05 Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is increasingly concerned by the images, which have shown police smashing into polling stations and hitting voters with batons.

Sturgeon appealed to Spain "to change course before someone is seriously hurt. Let people vote peacefully."

"Regardless of views on independence, we should all condemn the scenes being witnessed," said Sturgeon, whose country held its own referendum on independence in 2014. That referendum was peaceful, and saw 55 percent of Scottish voters rejecting the idea of independence.

16:45 Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has called for political dialogue amid the police crackdown. Michel condemned all forms of violence, tweeting that "Violence can never be the answer."

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont appeared to co-opt the comments, saying "thank you very much ... for your commitment against violence and for your call for political dialogue."

16:15 FC Barcelona’s La Liga match against Las Palmas is being played behind closed doors after the Spanish league refused to postpone the game.

The Catalan club condemned the "events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression."

Here's what happened earlier today

The Catalan regional government said at least 337 people had been injured in the security crackdown so far.

Riot police reportedly fired rubber bullets at protesters outside a Barcelona polling station in a bid to impede Sunday's disputed referendum.

According to local media, officers fired while trying to clear a crowd blocking them from leaving with confiscated ballot boxes from the voting center.

Scuffles also broke out near the Catalan city of Girona, where the regional president, Carles Puigdemont, was due to cast his ballot. Television footage showed police forcing their way into the voting center in Sant Julia de Ramis, using batons to disperse would-be voters before smashing through a glass door. Officers with shields and helmets were seen dragging people away.

Read more: Catalan independence - what you need to know

Watch video 00:50

Tension run high during Catalan referendum

Following the raid, Puigdemont cast his vote at a different polling station in the village of Cornella del Terri. The Catalan leader condemned the police crackdown, saying it would "shame the Spanish state forever."

"The unjustified use of violence, which is both irrational and irresponsible, by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people," Puigdemont told reporters.

His comments were echoed by Catalonia's ombudsman, Rafael Ribo, who called on police to stop all violent actions against citizens. In an emotional press conference, he said he planned to complain to European authorities about the government's tactics.

Police move in on members of the public waiting to cast their vote in the village of Sant Julia de Ramis

Police move in on members of the public waiting to cast their vote

Madrid: Referendum a 'farce'

Madrid, which has declared the referendum illegal, deployed thousands of extra police to Catalonia with orders to clear out voting centers and refrain from using violence. 

Spanish government delegate to Catalonia, Enric Millo, defended the security forces' behavior, saying they were acting "professionally" and with "proportionality" to "oversee the safety of all Catalans."

"We were forced to do what we did not wish to do," he told reporters, adding that the officers' main aim was to remove election materials, not target members of the public.  

A happy voter celebrates after voting in Barcelona

A happy voter celebrates after voting in Barcelona

Spain's Interior Ministry tweeted that at least 11 officers were injured in confrontations with stone-throwing crowds as they carried out orders to seize ballot boxes and voting papers. Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido urged Catalan authorities "to stop this genuine madness."

He said officers from the national police force and the Guardia Civil had "neutralized" 70 polling places. 

'Votarem'

Ballot papers and boxes with the seal of the Catalan government had appeared at dozens of referendum sites in Catalonia overnight Sunday amid chants of "Votarem" (We will vote), despite earlier claims by the Spanish government that it had succeeded in stopping the "illegal" referendum.

DW's Mariel Müller was on hand when the boxes arrived at one school.

A Catalan regional official said 73 percent of about 6,000 polling stations were open on Sunday morning. He said people could print their ballots from home and vote at any open polling station if their designated booth was closed.

Spanish footballer Gerard Pique of FC Barcelona was among those taking part. "I have voted. Together we are unstoppable in the defense of democracy," the 30-year-old tweeted.

 

Many supporters of Catalan independence spent the night in schools and other polling places in an effort to keep them open until the start of voting at Sunday at 9 a.m. (0700 UTC).  

Resolving a serious political battle

Catalan leader Puigdemont called for "mediation" Saturday to resolve the "serious" political battle dividing his regional authority from the central government in Madrid.

"If the yes wins, if the no wins — in any scenario there must be mediation because things aren't working," he said in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Puigdemont did not say directly who should mediate Spain's internal feud but indicated that the European Union should fill the void.

Watch video 02:50

Catalan referendum — Stay or go?

"I think that from now it would be logical for the EU to actively monitor [the situation] and actively take an interest," he said.  "If it doesn't take an interest in what is happening in Catalonia when everyone is watching and taking an interest, there's something wrong."

Brussels has preferred to sit on the sidelines of what it views as an internal dispute in Spain. The block has only warned Catalans that if they were to secede from Spain they would have to apply for EU membership, which Madrid would have authority to block.

Huge protests

Thousands of people gathered in central Madrid on Saturday to protest against the secession vote. Waving Spanish flags, they chanted "Viva Espana," "Spanish unity" and "Catalonia is Spain." Some of the protesters also called for pro-independence Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to be put in jail.

Pro-independence supporters also held a large protest in Barcelona in the lead up to the vote.

DW journalist Peter Geoghegan was in Barcelona during a Spanish unity rally, while DW's Mariel Müller could not find anyone ready to vote "no" in the referendum.

A large majority of Catalans back the idea of holding a legitimate referendum, but they are split over independence itself.

Watch video 02:42

Catalonians agree to disagree on independence from Spain

nm/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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