Catalonia Has Won the Right to an Independent State, Catalan Leader Says

UPDATE | Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said Catalonia has won the right to an independent state, following the controversial referendum on Sunday that saw violence break out in the region.

At least 800 people were injured in the violent clashes over the weekend, with Spanish police attempting to prevent people from casting their votes with the use of force or by seizing their ballot papers, the BBC reported.

The Spanish government had said it would not permit the vote to go ahead — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the poll a “mockery” of democracy — but Puigdemont said Catalonia had won the right to an independent state following the vote.

09_20_Catalonia_Protests A crowd of protesters gather outside the Catalan region's economy ministry in Barcelona, Spain, on September 20. Albert Gea/Reuters

"With this day of hope and suffering, the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic," Puigdemont said on Sunday evening.

"My government, in the next few days will send the results of today's vote to the Catalan parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum,” he added.

ITN’s Dominic Reynolds, reporting from Central Square in Catalonia, said the televised address from Puigdemont was met with cheers from the crowds that had gathered to hear the speech.

“Roars at the end of Catalan President's speech in Central Square. Hinted a declaration of Independence is incoming,” Reynolds wrote in a post on Twitter.

Shortly before Puigdemont’s speech, Rajoy had refused to acknowledge the vote and blamed the Catalan government for the violence that broke out over the weekend.

“The responsibility for these acts solely and exclusively falls on those who promoted the rupture of legality and coexistence,” he said in comments carried by The Guardian.

“The vast majority of the people of Catalonia did not want to participate in the secessionists’ script. They have shown that they are law-abiding people and quietly ignored the call [to vote] … All Spaniards value their attitude.”

Tensions were so high that FC Barcelona, the hometown squad of the Catalan capital, played its Sunday home game against Las Palmas in front of an empty stadium to ensure that there was no violence.

Players from Las Palmas wore small Spanish flags sewn onto their jerseys to show their opposition to the breakup of the country. FC Barcelona players donned the colors of the Catalan flag.

Story was updated to include news from the soccer game.

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