BARCELONA (AFP) - Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont called Monday (Oct 2) for international mediation in the crisis pitting his regional separatist executive against Madrid, a day after police violence marred an independence referendum banned by the central government.
Speaking to reporters, he called for "mediation", "which means there must be the presence of a third party, which must be international to be efficient."
Just as he spoke to reporters, Catalans took to the streets of central Barcelona in droves to protest the violence, cutting roads to traffic and shouting: "The streets will always be ours," a phrase that has become the slogan of the pro-referendum movement.
The vote on Sunday saw riot police move in on polling stations in Barcelona and other towns and cities in the Catalan region to stop people from voting, in some cases baton-charging and firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
Madrid had warned Catalan separatist leaders they could not hold the vote in a region deeply divided over independence, stating it was illegal and courts had ruled it unconstitutional.
But they had retorted that Catalans had a right to decide on their future and pressed ahead anyway.
More than 800 people received medical attention as a result of the crackdown, according to regional authorities.
Puigdemont also demanded Monday that Madrid withdraw all police it had deployed to Catalonia from other parts of the country.
He requested the "withdrawal of all police forces deployed to Catalonia for these acts of repression."
In the early hours of Monday morning, the Catalan government claimed that 90 per cent of voters backed independence in the referendum, which it said saw a turnout of just over 42 per cent despite attempts to stop them from voting.
Puigdemont, meanwhile, said his region had "won the right to an independent state." He told reporters Monday that so far, 73 Catalans had filed official complaints against police brutality.
"It's the biggest day of gratuitous violence that we've experienced in the past 40 years," Puigdemont said, referring to the four decades of democratic rule in Spain.
"Not only can it not happen again, but it can't remain unpunished."
Puigdemont also called for "detente" as Catalans reeled from the clashes.