Voices of the Catalan referendum in Barcelona

Photographs by José Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News
Interviews conducted by Maria Jesus Albaladejo

Spain’s constitutional crisis reached a boiling point as Catalans in Barcelona and across the region headed to the polls in a highly-contested independence referendum and were met with a harsh police crackdown.

Several hundred people were injured in the confrontations with officers on Sunday, and dozens of polling centers were shut down.

Police acting on orders from the Spanish government to stop the voting across the country’s northeastern region clashed with Catalans who were attempting to stop them from confiscating ballots. Videos that emerged Sunday on social media appear to show police using brutal force on people attempting to cast their vote.

Catalonia’s health service said Sunday night that at least 844 people were injured today by the evening — nearly half of them in the Barcelona region, where police fired rubber bullets near at least one polling station, according to The Associated Press. Spanish authorities said 11 police officers were injured in the melees.

On Sunday, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria praised police in the region for acting with “firmness and proportionality.”

Spain’s government has said that the referendum is illegal, and the country’s Constitutional Court in early September ordered the planned vote suspended.

Catalan separatists called on millions of registered voters to defy these orders and head to the polls on Sunday anyway. (GMA)

Photographer José Colon was on the ground in Barcelona for Yahoo News and visited some polling stations to bring us a look and some words from those who voted today and why – and from some who came to support the right to vote and others who weren’t allowed to vote at all.

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See related slideshow: Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain >>>

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Voices of the Catalan referendum in Barcelona

Photographs by José Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News

Demonstrations in Barcelona

Independence Day in Montjuic, Barcelona, Spain on September 29, 2017, ahead of the referendum vote. (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Lines of voters wait

Voters in from Escola Pía, Sant Antoni, line up to vote on the Catalan referendum on October 1, 2017. (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Voting begins

A voter takes his ballot for Catalan referendum on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Josepa, 86, from Colegio Plaza Sortidor, Poble Sec

“I’ve voted ‘Yes’ and I have been one of the first people voting for the change. I’m very happy because I can express myself both in Catalan and Spanish.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Alex, 22, from Escuela Cervantes, La Ribera

“I consider this as a right. It is not about being against “the system”, but rather we’re talking about a united group of people, children, adults.. We’re talking about our own rights. Only people can save people.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Ángel, 41

“It is my right. I’m doing this for all the people who have been fighting for having Cataluña as a free country. My father is from Galizia and my mother is Catalan. I voted ‘Yes’.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Nicole, 34, born in England

“It’s 10 years I’ve been living in Spain, in Cataluña. I’m here to support people, for a matter of human rights, not independence. It touched me this morning when I saw on the Internet what was going on and I’ve come to the street to support the citizens. I don’t know what I would vote if I could. But I would probably vote ‘Yes’ for the opposition demonstrated by the Spanish government.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Ariel, 45, from Escola Pía, Sant Antonio

“I’m from Cuba. I’ve come to vote because there are many things to be stopped that this [Spanish] government has been doing. What’s the fear motivating people to vote? Is there something behind it?” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Piedad, 60, from Casal Gent Gran, Barceloneta

“I’m from Burgos and I’ve come to vote because I don’t accept Rajoy telling me when I can or cannot vote. I voted ‘No’ to independence.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Marta, 26, from Escola Calderón de la Barca, Nou Barris

“I’m Catalan, I live in Gasteiz, and I’ve come here with the purpose of voting ‘Yes’. I believe in freedom and respect for any language and culture and any different way to be, for anybody. I believe we should all live in a virtuous and free way. Today is a day for us to defend freedom. Catalan people have given this ideal the chance to grow.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Sergi, 27, from Colegio Sant Pau, Raval

“I will not tell you what I’m going to vote for because the important thing is just that today is an historical day. It’s an opportunity, maybe the only one we have to express ourselves. If I wasn’t come to vote today maybe I couldn’t do it again in the future. I just want to see the result of this vote.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Gala, 36, from Barcelona en Comú.

“We’re talking about carrying out a basic right, the self-determination of populations. The way how the Popular Party has been acting during the last days would deserve a convincing reply. I voted “Yes” not because the Junts pel Sí [the party governing Catalonia] is the best option, but only because I believe that institutions are better when they are close [to the citizens].” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Ibrahim, 23, from Escuela Cervantes, La Ribera

“It is a Catalan people’s right. The future depends on all citizens who want to build a new country. They want to impede people voting through violence and imposition. In this way they simply convince us to move apart from Spain and its system even more. I was born here in Cataluña, but since I haven’t a NIE [Foreign People Identification Document] I can’t vote. I’m a spokesman of the African community in Cataluña and we want to build a country from the beginning, something we’re trying to do since years, centuries.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

David, 20, from Escolares Cervantes

“Voting is a human beings’ right. The only way to speak loud as a citizen. Since they tried to stop this through all means, we got angry. Thus, even people initially not interested in expressing a vote decided to occupy the streets and do something big. I hope that anybody can see what’s happening here and demonstrate empathy to us.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Mireia, 44, from Escola Pía, Sant Antoni

“I’ve come to vote against the repression Cataluña has been suffering since annexation to Spain. They don’t let us express freely at polling stations. I wasn’t for independence since 5 years ago. The Popular Party has been directing more people towards an independence ideal than others.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Manuel, 44, from Escola Calderón de la Barca

“I’ve voted ‘Yes’ for democracy, justice, and for a new country.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

Nuria, 26 from Escola Calderón de la Barca, Nou Barris

“We have to vote because this is democracy. People want to decide between ‘Yes” or “No’. Our grandfathers fought for this. There has been a lot manipulation of the information. Ballot boxes and sheets have been confiscated. There’s a lot of violence from police side [Spanish National Police], whereas people have been acting peacefully.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

María Teresa, 81, from Escola Pía, Sant Antoni

“I am voting because we want an independent country, to live safe, my sons and my family.” (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

More wait to vote

Voters wait to vote on the Catalan referendum on October 1, 2017. (Photograph by Jose Colon/ MeMo for Yahoo News)

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