Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Spanish riot police burst into polling stations across Catalonia on Sunday, confiscating ballot boxes and voting papers to try to halt a banned referendum on a split from Spain as Madrid asserted its authority over the rebel region.

Police broke down doors to force entry into voting stations as defiant Catalans shouted “Out with the occupying forces!” and sang the anthem of the wealthy northeastern region. In one incident in Barcelona, police fired rubber projectiles.

Catalan officials said 337 people had been injured in the police crackdown. Officers in riot gear hit people with batons and forcibly removed would-be voters, including women and the elderly, from polling stations.

The referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and deepened a centuries-old rift between Madrid and Barcelona.

Despite the police action, hundreds-strong queues of people formed in cities and villages throughout the region to cast their votes. At one Barcelona polling station, elderly people and those with children entered first. (Reuters)

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Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Spanish riot police shoots rubber bullet straight to people trying to reach a voting site at a school assigned to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Spanish Civil Guard officers break through a door at a polling station for the banned independence referendum where Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was supposed to vote in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo: Juan Medina/Reuters)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

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, Oct. 1, 2017. Spanish riot police have forcefully removed a few hundred would-be voters from several polling stations in Barcelona. (Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A girls grimaces as Spanish National Police pushes away Pro-referendum supporters outside the Ramon Llull school assigned to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain, 1 Oct. 2017. (Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

People try to offer flowers to a civil guard at the entrance of a sports center, assigned to be a referendum polling station by the Catalan government in Sant Julia de Ramis, near Girona, Spain, Oct. 1, 2017. Scuffles have erupted as voters protested while dozens of anti-rioting police broke into a polling station where the regional leader was expected to show up for voting on Sunday. (Photo: Francisco Seco/AP)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Civil guards clear people away from the entrance of a sports center, assigned to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Sant Julia de Ramis, near Girona, Spain, Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo: Francisco Seco/AP)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Spanish Civil Guard officers remove a man outside a polling station for the banned independence referendum in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain on Oct.1, 2017. (Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Spanish police scuffle with people outside a polling station for the banned independence referendum in Tarragona, Spain, Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo: David Gonzalez/Reuters)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A woman reacts as she leaves a polling station after casting her vote for the banned separatist referendum in Barcelona, Spain Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo: Eloy Alonso/Reuters)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A man falls to the ground during scuffles with Spanish Civil Guard officers outside a polling station for the banned independence referendum in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain, Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Spanish police scuffle with a man outside a polling station for the banned independence referendum in Tarragona, Spain, Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo: David Gonzalez/Reuters)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

People clash with Spanish police officers outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona Oct. 1, 2017 during a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

People are facing the Spanish police ‘Policia Nacional’ after they closed down a polling station. Today the referendum was held to vote for the independence of Catalunya region. (Photo: Andrea Baldo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Pro-referendum supporters lock a gate to a polling station as members of the Spanish National Police arrived to control the area during voting at the Escola Industrial of Barcelona school polling station on Oct. 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Pro-referendum supporters lock a gate to a polling station as members of the Spanish National Police arrived to control the area during voting at the Escola Industrial of Barcelona school polling station on Oct. 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A anti-separatist demonstrator wears a Spanish flags reading ‘Catalonia is Spain’ during a protest in support of Spain’s unity as Catalonian votes in referendum on Oct. 1, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Spanish Guardia Civil guards drag a man outside a polling station in Sant Julia de Ramis, where Catalan president was supposed to vote, on Oct. 1, 2017, on the day of a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A protestor holds a Spanish flag during a demonstration called by far-right groups against a referendum on independence for Catalonia, on Oct. 1, 2017 in Barcelona. (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Protestors perform a fascist salute during a demonstration called by far-right groups against a referendum on independence for Catalonia, on Oct. 1, 2017 in Barcelona. (Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

People try to stop Spanish police vans outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona Oct. 1, 2017 during a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

People are facing the Spanish police ‘Policia Nacional’ after they closed down a polling station. Today the referendum was held to vote for the independence of Catalunya region. (Photo: Andrea Baldo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

An anti-separatist demonstrator wears a t-shirt with the image of the pre-constitutional Spanish flag during a protest in support of Spain’s unity as Catalonian votes in referendum on Oct. 1, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A ballot box is closed at a polling station as voting continues in the referendum on Oct. 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. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A woman shouts during clashes with Spanish police officers outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona Oct. 1, 2017 during a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

Pro-Referendum supporters clash with members of the Spanish National Police, after police tried to enter a polling station to retreive ballot boxes during today’s referendum vote on Oct. 1, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A man shouts at Spanish police officers outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona Oct. 1, 2017 during a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A Spanish police officer is pictured outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona Oct. 1, 2017 during a referendum on independence for Catalonia banned by Madrid. (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

People are facing the Spanish police ‘Policia Nacional’ after they closed down a polling station. Today the referendum was held to vote for the independence of Catalunya region. (Photo: Andrea Baldo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Violence erupts as Catalans vote on referendum on a split from Spain

A Spanish police officer grabs a man during clashes outside the Ramon Llull polling station in Barcelona Oct.1, 2017 during a referendum on independence for (Photo: Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images)