Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova found herself in the middle of police violence against voters during the Catalan independence referendum she was observing on Sunday.“We saw a group of people who weren’t being allowed to vote. So they sat in the middle of the road and sang the Catalan anthem and other patriotic songs,” she said.“Without any warning or provocation, the police started shooting rubber bullets. I was right in the middle of it with other parliamentarians.“I saw a rubber bullet on the ground right near me. I saw people, young and old, being beaten with clubs,” she said, recounting the scene in Barcelona at about 10 a.m. Svetlova used her experience as a veteran journalist to stay out of danger.“I entered a building and kept out of the way so I wouldn’t be beaten with a club. One MP from a Scandinavian country had never experienced anything like this and was very close to where the police went crazy. If you don’t know how to find cover in these situations, you could end up beaten or shot.”
Svetlova, who was invited by the Catalonian government to be an impartial observer, said she did not have an opinion as to whether the region should be independent from Spain.Earlier in the morning, the international parliamentary delegation observed several polling places, only one of which was able to hold a vote.In other places, police had already confiscated equipment.The MK said she did not anticipate the violence.“I thought there might be problems, like that the government might try to take the ballots away so votes couldn’t be counted or that the Internet might be cut off in some places.“Many Spaniards, not just Catalans, are in shock at the National Police’s behavior. No one expected it to be so brutal,” she said, adding that “people feel like the democratic process has been harmed.”“Even people who planned to vote against [independence] are upset that they didn’t have the right to express their opinion.”Svetlova said she found it jarring that this took place in a European Union country: “We’re talking about Europe, European values of democracy and freedom of expression. How do these things go together?” The Zionist Union MK expressed concerns that “the processes Europe is undergoing will have ramifications for us [in Israel]” and said she spoke to Spanish parliamentarians, accusing them of hypocrisy when it comes to Israel.“I told them: ‘You criticize us, our democracy and use of force when things happen – sometimes justifiably – but first you should look at what’s happening at home,’” she said.
Emotions run high as Barcelona polling station opens for independence referendum vote in Catalonia, October 1, 2017. (Reuters)