Catalan leader: Referendum paves way for independence from Spain

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Catalonia's leader has said voters have "gained the right" to an independent state following a referendum rejected by Madrid. Some 90 percent voted in favor of secession, but turnout was low in a vote marred by violence.

Speaking hours after Sunday's disputed referendum concluded, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said Catalonia had "gained the right to have an independent state with the status of a republic."
He added that the results of Sunday's referendum would be forwarded "in the coming days" to the Catalan parliament. 
Monday's front page from La Vanguardia, one of the main newspapers in Catalonia, reports Puigdemont will push for a unilateral declaration of independence in parliament in the coming days. But Madrid maintains the ballot is invalid, rejecting it as illegal on constitutional grounds. The central government had ordered police to stop the referendum from going forward.
Low turnout, violent confrontations
Catalonia's regional government reported that 844 civilians were hurt during Sunday's referendum as police tried to hinder voting and cracked down on some taking part. Several of the injuries were reported to be serious.
Thirty-three police officers were also hurt during the ballot.
After voting concluded, a spokesman for the Catalan government, Jordi Turull, said about 2.26 million votes had been counted. That represents a turnout of roughly 42 percent of Catalonia's voters - with over 2 million voting in favor of secession. 
Turull also said that authorities estimate a total of 770,000 votes were lost because of disruptions amid the voting.
"Four hundred schools [used as polling stations] have been sealed, and many votes have been directly stolen," he claimed.
Frustrations with Rajoy
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau demanded that Spain's conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy resign after Spanish riot police were seen beating and kicking people as part of the efforts to shut down the vote.
Colau told broadcaster TV3, "Rajoy has been a coward, hiding behind the prosecutors and courts. Today he crossed all the red lines with the police actions against normal people, old people, families who were defending their fundamental rights."
In Madrid, government opponents earlier gathered in solidarity with Catalonia, calling for Rajoy to stand down. Shouts of "Madrid is with the people of Catalonia" were heard.
But Spain's deputy prime minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, defended the police response earlier on Sunday, saying officers had acted with "firmness and proportionality" in response to an unauthorized ballot.
The police union for the regional Catalan Mossos d'Esquadro SICME said it deeply regretted the injuries as a result of police intervention.
Over 40 unions and Catalan associations called for a region-wide strike for Tuesday, citing "the grave violation of rights and freedoms."