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Spanish police fire rubber bullets near Catalan voting site

Published: Updated:

Spanish riot police smashed their way into polling stations to try to halt a disputed independence referendum on Sunday and fired rubber bullets at protesters outside a Barcelona polling station. Several people were injured.

The officers fired the rubber bullets while trying to clear protesters who were trying to prevent National Police cars from leaving after police confiscated ballot boxes from the voting center. The Spanish government has ordered police to stop the voting process, saying it's illegal.

An AP photographer saw several people who had been injured during the scuffles outside Barcelona's Rius i Taule school, where some voters had cast ballots before police arrived. Catalan officials said 38 people were treated for mostly minor injuries.

Manuel Conedeminas, a 48-year-old IT manager who tried to block police from driving away with the ballot boxes, said agents had kicked them before using their batons and firing the projectiles, which were ball-shaped.

Elsewhere, Civil Guard officers, wearing helmets and carrying shields, used a hammer to break the glass of the front door and a lock cutter to break into the Sant Julia de Ramis sports center near the city of Girona. At least one woman was injured outside the building and wheeled away on a stretcher by paramedics.

Clashes broke out less than an hour after polls opened, and not long before Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont was expected to turn up to vote at the sports center. Polling station workers inside the building reacted peacefully and broke out into songs and chants challenging the officers' presence.