TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Forming human chains and acting as buffer zones between civilians and security forces, selfless firefighters allowed many voters to cast their ballots and prevented more violence across Catalonia.
As soon as polling stations opened Sunday morning, defying Madrid’s “illegal” vote ban, hundreds of off-duty firefighters rushed to the stations.
Firemen in Catalonia having to protect people from police violence. Surely the police should protect people from violence not perpetrate it.
Dressed in full gear, they stood united between civilians and riot police who at many polling stations used rubber bullets truncheons to disperse people, and at times dragging them away.
As blood began to spill, the Catalan firefighters known as the Bombers Independència, sprung into the action, desperately trying to stop the clashes AND keep the peace. In some instances, the firefighters turned ‘peacekeepers’ were brutally beaten by the armed military police.
Locals anticipated fire officers to play some kind of role after hundreds of firefighters unfurled a massive banner saying 'Love democracy' from the roof of Catalonia's history museum just days before the referendum was due to take place.
But their actions during the vote surpassed all expectations. Everywhere the firefighters appeared on Sunday, they were greeted by the crowd as true Catalan heroes, receiving loud applause and endless cheer.
Amid the violence and tensions across Catalonia, Catalan police were forced into multiple standoffs with Spain’s Guardia Civil. Emotional footage has emerged of teary-eyed members of the Mossos d’Esquadra standing arm in arm to defend polling stations.
“The Spanish State has today written a shameful page in its history of relationship with Catalonia,” the head of the regional government said after the vote.
Praising the courage of millions of Catalan people, who, despite a violent police crackdown, took to the polling stations to vote, Carles Puigdemont called the brutality “unjustified, shocking and abusive.”