Derry nationalists united with Catalonia and in condemnation of attempted suppression of independence poll

Martina Anderson with the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont.
Martina Anderson with the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont.

Republicans and nationalists in Derry have expressed solidarity with the people of Catalonia and condemned attempts by Madrid to shut down Sunday's historic independence referendum, which Spain has deemed unconstitutional.

Sinn Féin and Saoradh held separate solidarity rallies and pickets at Free Derry corner on Saturday, while the SDLP joined the former groups' condemnation of repressive measures being used by the Spanish police to prevent today's poll.

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson, who is in Barcelona as an observer, said the international community has a responsibility to act to defend the democratic rights of the Catalan people.

She said: "As an international observer to the Catalan independence referendum I have witnessed at first hand the attempts by the Spanish authorities to deny people the right to vote.

"This has included seizing ballot boxes, blocking access to polling stations and physical attacks on those queuing up to exercise their democratic right.

"There have also been reports of disruption to the online services required for voter validation.

"Let's be clear; these are attacks on the democratic process and democracy itself.

"If this was happening anywhere else in the world there would be international outrage.

"There is an onus on the international community, and the EU in particular, to speak out and to act to defend the fundamental democratic rights of the people of Catalonia."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “The shocking scenes of police brutality in Catalonia must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

"I am completely horrified at the disgraceful scenes of violence and oppression we are seeing on the streets of Catalonia against civilians.

“No matter what position anyone has on whether the vote in Catalonia is legal or not, violence from the Spanish police cannot be condoned.

“The people of Catalonia must know that we are with them and we will not stand by while their basic civil and human rights are violated.”

Joe Barr, a Derry-based national organiser with Saoradh, said: "So far, officials have seized almost 10 million ballot papers, imposed fines on top Catalan officials, and detained numerous politicians."

The group brought forward a monthly picket in support of republican prisoners in solidarity with the people of Catalonia.

Mr. Barr said Saoradh was supporting the Catalonian people and Republican Prisoners in a "stand with the oppressed and those who strive for freedom".