I was in a Catalan city called Girona on the day of the illegal Catalan independence referendum. Here’s what happened to me throughout the day.
I wake up. The first thing I see is my girlfriend standing over me. “It’s very bad,” she says solemnly. “The Spanish police are hitting people with batons”.
She shows me a video recorded by her friend an hour earlier. The video is of a voting station in Girona. The voting station is a school called Escola Verd, which is just two blocks away from where we are now. In the video, Spanish police are indeed hitting voters with batons:
We eat breakfast while we watch the news on TV. The news says the Spanish police are going to all the voting stations in Catalonia and trying to remove the ballot boxes.
We go to the local polling station, the one in the video. The police are no longer here. Apparently they couldn’t find the ballot boxes so they left. Voting will resume shortly.
My girlfriend keeps bumping into friends and members of her family. Some were there during the police attacks. They have bruises on their arms from the batons. The mom of one of my girlfriend’s friends even has a finger in plaster, because her finger was injured during the police attacks.
Everyone is busy checking their phones:
Next we go to another polling station. This one is a school called Escola Eiximenis. Hundreds of Catalans are standing around in a public square outside the school.
Six or seven police vans drive by. People run to the school to block the entrance and prevent the police from getting in. The police drive away. Everyone cheers.
So far we haven’t seen any violence firsthand. I hope we’ll see some soon. It’s like we’re hunting a monster. We’ve seen videos of the monster and we’ve heard stories about the monster but we haven’t seen the monster ourselves yet.
My girlfriend still hasn’t voted yet, so we go back to the first polling station and join the queue to vote. The queue is long and moving very slowly.
We are still queuing to vote. Then a woman with a loudspeaker tells everyone they have to form two queues instead of one. Some people can’t hear her. Other people push to the front. The orderly queue turns into a disorderly mess. Now there are more people in front of me and my girlfriend than before. My girlfriend is disgusted. We leave, planning to come back later when the queues have died down.
At home we watch more videos of Spanish police beating up Catalan voters. It seems all the violence happened around 9 am, while I was still asleep. I wish I had been there.
After lunch, we set out again so my girlfriend can vote. My girlfriend’s mom and dad join us too because they haven’t voted yet either. Her mom is Catalan and her dad is Indian. Here’s a couple of photos of them:
We go to a polling station called Estació Jove. There are about a hundred people outside. They’ve already voted, but they are staying to protect the polling station from the Spanish police.
My girlfriend, her mom and her dad all vote ‘yes’ for independence. Here’s my girlfriend at the moment of her vote:
My girlfriend is pregnant so she has gone home for the safety of our unborn child. Meanwhile I’m standing outside the local polling station in case the Spanish police come back. If they do come back then I have decided I will join the ‘front line’ to protect the station from the police. This will involve standing in front of the building’s entrance with my arms up in the air while the police hit me with batons.
But the police don’t come back. Instead, a woman on a loudspeaker announces that the polling station is now closed and the officials are counting the votes. Everyone applauds.
She also says there are three places in Girona where voting is still open: Pavelló Muncipal de Palau, Escola Pla de Palau, and Pavelló Municipal d’Esports Santa Eugènia. These places need our support because the Spanish police will probably visit them soon. I therefore set off walking to Pavelló Muncipal de Palau. I feel like I’m defending gyms in Pokemon Go.
I reach Pavelló Muncipal de Palau. There are hundreds or even perhaps thousands of people here. There is no way the Spanish police are getting in here. My help is not needed here, so I walk on.
I reach Escola Pla de Girona. There are hundreds of people here too. These people also don’t need my help either, so I walk on.
I reach the third polling place still open in Girona, Pavelló Municipal d’Esports Santa Eugènia. There are hundreds of people here too. No-one needs my help so I decide to go home.
Everyone goes out onto their balconies and makes noise by hitting pots and pans to show their support of the referendum.
The news shows some early referendum results. It seems the ‘yes’ vote for independence will win by a landslide. And once all the results are in, the president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, will declare Catalonia as independent from Spain. No-one knows what will happen next.
I make this cartoon to sum up the day’s events:
I took this article’s featured image from a Catalan website called diaridegirona.cat.