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Violence Erupted In Spain As Catalans Overwhelmingly Voted For Independence

More than 800 people were injured as police clashed with people voting in a contested independence referendum Sunday. Officials said early Monday that 90% of the votes were cast in favor of independence.

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Hundreds were injured in northeast Spain after police fired rubber bullets and clashed with protesters attempting to vote in a referendum that in the end overwhelmingly favored independence for Catalonia.

Police outfitted in riot gear fired rubber bullets and physically removed people from polling stations as they attempted to vote.

The referendum is the latest development in Catalonia's long push for independence, which has recently forced Spain into its greatest constitutional crisis in decades. In September, a vote was called for independence for the region, which operates semi-autonomously and houses some 7.5 million residents. But Spain's constitutional court declared the referendum illegal, and moved thousands of officers and riot police into the region ahead of the vote, the BBC reported.

According to the Associated Press, 2.6 million Catalans voted Sunday, 90% of whom favored independence from Spain. Catalan regional government spokesman Jordi Turull said 8% of the votes opposed breaking away and 15,000 ballots still needed to be counted, according to the AP.

As of late afternoon local time, some 465 people had been injured, according to El Pais, a prominent Spanish newspaper. That number was later revised to 844, the AP reported. Officials have not yet publicly discussed the severity of injuries, or whether there were any casualties.

Roughly 2,300 polling stations were open on Sunday morning, Catalan officials claimed, but the national government in Madrid said it closed down more than half of those, according to Reuters. Riot officers were stationed outside, blocking voters from entering many of the buildings. In one video, police appear to break into a polling station in order to stop people from voting. A dozen police officers were also reportedly wounded.

Turull told the AP the number of ballots counted does not include those confiscated by Spanish authorities.

WATCH: Police force their way into polling station being used for Catalonia independence vote READ MORE:… https://t.co/DgxBIXr9Pg

Officers were repeatedly filmed physically removing would-be voters from outside makeshift polling stations.

Gent ferida per la @policia durant l'intent de desallotjament de l'exterior de l'escola Infant Jesús de BCN.

Images that Madrid has been fearing as police uses force to remove young and old from voting stations. @FT

Videos circulating online, including one posted by the vice president of the region, appeared to show officers firing rubber bullets at protesters, near the Ramon Llull school in Barcelona.

Spanish police fire rubber bullets at people simply trying to vote in the #CatalanReferendum. Smells like fascism...

A passer-by, interviewed by Sky News, confirmed that he had been shot at by police with rubber bullets, shortly after he had left the polling station nearby.

"This is so absurd," he said. "They are not thinking about their democracy or what they are building."

And inside the polling stations, balaclava-clad officials were filmed confiscating the ballot boxes.

La Policia Nacional requisant les urnes a l'Escola Ramon Llull @btvnoticies

Spain's minister of the interior, Juan Ignacio Zoido, also tweeted to confirm officials were confiscating the ballots.

But in response, Catalan officials told the public that they could print out their ballots at home and simply deposit them in any polling station still open.

Speaking mid-morning, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont condemned Spain's "unjustified, irrational, and irresponsible" use of violence, and urged Madrid to stop, saying it would "forever" shame those behind it.

Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, called for the Spanish prime minister to stand down over the police response.

⚠️Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau demands Mariano Rajoy's resignation in response to police actions #CatalanReferendum

In a statement to press, Colau said in Spanish that "it is unacceptable that the police should be thrown against a populace that has mobilized to exercise its right to vote, that is behaving peacefully, and is defenseless."

At a news conference Sunday evening, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the events were the actions of “a mature, advanced, friendly, and tolerant democracy — but also a firm and determined one.”

Some Catalans were able to cast their ballots – including the president and vice president of the region, Catalan News reported.

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images, Handout . / Reuters

As clashes continued, many of the makeshift polling stations appeared to still be open, with Catalan officials claiming at least 70% were operational. As people voted, many shared images of their children, parents, or grandparents voting.

El meu pare entrant a votar (86anys)! Torturat, empresonatpel franquisme: un "delinqüent". Avui ho segueix essent.… https://t.co/oUnvyXb6uo

The caption reads: "My father, going in to vote (86 years old)! Tortured and imprisoned during Franco era: a 'delinquent.' Today he still is. He just doesn't learn ;-)".

International leaders condemned the violence. Belgium's prime minister tweeted that he condemned all violence, as did Slovenia's leader.

Violence can never be the answer! We condemn all forms of violence and reaffirm our call for political dialogue #CatalanReferendum #Spain

I am concerned about situation. I call for political dialogue, rule of law and peaceful solutions. #CatalanReferandum #Spain

The British opposition leade, Jeremy Corbyn, also called for an end to the clashes.

Police violence against citizens in #Catalonia is shocking. The Spanish government must act to end it now.

This is a developing news story. Please check back here for updates and follow @buzzfeednews on Twitter.

Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at Rose.Buchanan@BuzzFeed.com.

Ellen Cushing is an articles editor for BuzzFeed News' tech section and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Ellen Cushing at ellen.cushing@buzzfeed.com.

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