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Catalan referendum: It reminds me of Belfast Troubles protests, says Northern Ireland photographer

By Jonathan Bell

A photographer holidaying in Catalonia has said the scenes of long queues of people out voting in an independence referendum remind him of Troubles-era protests in Northern Ireland.

Hundreds have been injured in Catalonia in clashes with Spanish police trying to prevent a referendum on independence from taking place in the northeastern region, Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau said.

Belfast Telegraph photographer Liam McBurney is staying in the small fishing village of Palamos with his family where there has been no trouble. He described long queues of people turning out to vote and the palpable anger at the scenes unfolding in other parts of the region.

"People slept overnight in schools, parked tractors in front of polling stations and worked in shifts just to make sure this referendum went ahead," he said.

"There has been so many people come out and celebrate. They are out in the streets drinking cava - they have had enough and want change.

"Here it has all been good-natured and peaceful. There is just a handful of local police watching over things, nothing like what is happening elsewhere."

Liam said there was a sense of shock among the residents of the small fishing village as they watch events unfold across the region.

He continued: "They have been sitting aghast at seeing older people beaten and police fire plastic bullets. Some can't believe that given the Las Ramblas attacks they have seen police vans drive at lines of protesters.

"It reminds me of the peaceful protests that were held in Ardoyne and on the Ormeau Road during the Troubles. All the people coming out, all ages, all demographics, nothing will stop them having their say."

Meanwhile demonstrations are to be held in Belfast and Derry in solidarity with the people of Catalonia.

SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Crowds raise their arms up as police move in on members of the public gathered outside to prevent them from voting in the referendum at a polling station where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Crowds raise their arms up as police move in on members of the public gathered outside to prevent them from voting in the referendum at a polling station where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voter hold a ballot paper to vote in the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voter hold a ballot paper in the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. People in town of Palamos Catalonia await the town hall to open to be able to vote in the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Local Catalan Police known locally as Mossos d'Esquadra, arrive at Palamos town hall just as doors open for people to vote in the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Local Catalan Police known locally as Mossos d'Esquadra, arrive at Palamos town hall just as doors open for people to vote in the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. A voter shouts to the crowd and shows his Catalan identity card after voting in town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voter distributes ballot papers in the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. A voter uses that back on a fellow voter to cast their vote at the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voter hold a ballot paper to vote in the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voters in the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voters cheer after voting in the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. An official returns a voter identity card before casting her vote in the town hall of Palamos in Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. A voter casts her vote in the town hall of Palamos, Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. A voter casts her vote in the town hall of Palamos, Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. A voter casts his vote in the town hall of Palamos, Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. A voter casts her vote in the town hall of Palamos, Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. A voter casts her vote in the town hall of Palamos, Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voters celebrate with Cava after casting their votes in the town hall of Palamos, Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Palamos, Catalonia, Spain. 1st Oct, 2017. Voter queue to cast their vote in the town hall of Palamos, Catalonia during the banned referendum for independence from Spain. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Police move back to their vans followed by members of the public after storming into polling station to confiscate ballot boxes and ballots where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: A gate locks people out as police try to control the area where people wait to cast their ballot in the referendum vote at Escola Industrial of Barcelona school polling station on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: A woman holds a dog as people wait in the rain to cast their ballots to vote in the referendum at Escola Collaso I Gil public school polling station on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: People hold umbrellas and wait in the rain to cast their ballots to vote in the referendum at Escola Collaso I Gil public school polling station on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A flag that reads "Hong Kong Independence" (C) is seen with the British colonial-era Hong Kong flag (C) and the pro-independence 'Estelada' Catalan flag (R) as activists take part in an annual protest march on China's national day in Hong Kong on October 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Anthony WALLACEANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Members of family comfort each other after failing to vote in the referendum because of the Spanish police closing their polling station on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: A man protests as police arrive to control crowds gathered to cast their ballot in the referendum vote at Escola Industrial of Barcelona school polling station on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: People protest as police try to control the area as people attempt to cast their ballot today at a polling station in the referendum vote on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: A person confronts police trying to control the area as people attempt to vote at polling station in the referendum vote on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Police try to control the area as people attempt to cast their ballot today at a polling station in the referendum vote on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Spanish riot police swings a club against would-be voters near a school assigned to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Spanish riot police have forcefully removed a few hundred would-be voters from several polling stations in Barcelona. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: People protest as police try to control the area in their attempt to cast their ballot today at a polling station in the referendum vote on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Anti-separatist demonstrators hold Spanish flags and shout slogans during a protest in support of Spain's unity as Catalonian votes in referendum on October 1, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
Spanish Guardia Civil guards grab a man outside a polling station in Sant Julia de Ramis, where Catalan president was supposed to vote, on October 1, 2017, on the day of a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. More than 5.3 million Catalans are called today to vote in a referendum on independence, surrounded by uncertainty over the intention of Spanish institutions to prevent this plebiscite banned by justice. / AFP PHOTO / Raymond ROIGRAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Crowds gather to cast their ballot in the referendum vote at Escola Industrial of Barcelona school polling station on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Spanish Guardia Civil guards drag a man outside a polling station in Sant Julia de Ramis, where Catalan president was supposed to vote, on October 1, 2017, on the day of a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. More than 5.3 million Catalans are called today to vote in a referendum on independence, surrounded by uncertainty over the intention of Spanish institutions to prevent this plebiscite banned by justice. / AFP PHOTO / Raymond ROIGRAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Voting cards are seen inside the voting station at the Escola Industrial of Barcelona school on October 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. More than five million eligible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
CORRECTION - Spanish Guardia Civil guards drag a man outside a polling station in Sant Julia de Ramis, where Catalan president was supposed to vote, on October 1, 2017, on the day of a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. More than 5.3 million Catalans are called today to vote in a referendum on independence, surrounded by uncertainty over the intention of Spanish institutions to prevent this plebiscite banned by justice. / AFP PHOTO / Raymond ROIG / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [RAYMOND ROIG] instead of [KENZO TRIBOUILLARD]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images
A protestor tears an 'Estelada' (Pro-independence Catalan flag) while another (L) tries to burn it during a demonstration called by far-right groups against a referendum on independence for Catalonia, on October 01, 2017 in Barcelona. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENAPAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images
A woman casts her vote in a school, assigned to be a referendum polling station by the Catalan government in Girona, Spain, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. The Spanish government and its security forces are trying to prevent voting in the independence referendum, which is backed by Catalan regional authorities. Spanish officials had said force wouldn't be used, but that voting wouldn't be allowed.(AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
People, holding Andalusian and Catalan pro-independence 'Estelada' flags, walk with a banner reading "Andalusian workers for the right to decide" during a demonstration in support of the referendum in Catalonia on October 01, 2017, in Granada. / AFP PHOTO / JORGE GUERREROJORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images
People hold Andalusian and Catalan pro-independence 'Estelada' flags during a demonstration in support of the referendum in Catalonia on October 01, 2017, in Granada. / AFP PHOTO / JORGE GUERREROJORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - People clash with Spanish Guardia Civil guards outside a polling station in Sant Julia de Ramis, where Catalan president was supposed to vote, on October 1, 2017, on the day of a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. More than 5.3 million Catalans are called today to vote in a referendum on independence, surrounded by uncertainty over the intention of Spanish institutions to prevent this plebiscite banned by justice. / AFP PHOTO / Raymond ROIGRAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: A man and a child holding a red flower run from the police as they move in on the crowds as members of the public gather outside to prevent them from stopping the opening and the intended voting in the referendum at a polling station where the Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Police move back to their vans followed by members of the public after storming into polling station to confiscate ballot boxes and ballots where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Police move in on members of the public gathered outside to prevent them from voting in the referendum at a polling station where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Police move back to their vans followed by members of the public after storming into polling station to confiscate ballot boxes and ballots where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Police move in on members of the public gathered outside to prevent them from voting in the referendum at a polling station where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, SPAIN - OCTOBER 01: Police move back to their vans followed by members of the public after storming into polling station to confiscate ballot boxes and ballots where the President Carles Puigdemunt will vote later today on October 1, 2017 in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain. More than five million elegible Catalan voters are estimated to visit 2,315 polling stations today for the Catalonia's referendum on independence from Spain. The Spanish government in Madrid has declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

On Sunday Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau demanded "an immediate end to police charges against the defenceless population".

Police have baton-charged and fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds in Barcelona and other towns and cities. Videos have showed them beating people repeatedly as they try to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes.

The Madrid government described the vote as a "farce" saying blame for the trouble lay with Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont.

Read more:

'460 injured' in clashes with Spanish police over Catalonia independence poll 

Jeremy Corbyn condemns ‘shocking’ police crackdown over Catalonia vote 

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