"Catalonia’s defiant attempt to stage an independence referendum descended into chaos on Sunday, with hundreds of people injured in clashes with the Spanish police in one of the most serious tests of the country’s democracy since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s.
National police officers dressed in riot gear deployed in large numbers as they fanned out across Catalonia, the restive northeastern region of Spain, to close polling stations and seize ballot boxes.
Over the course of the day, the referendum took on an almost surreal cast. The voting went ahead in many towns and cities, with men and women, young and old, singing, clapping and chanting as they lined up for hours to cast ballots, even as confrontations with the police turned violent elsewhere.
The police, sent by the central government in Madrid from other parts of Spain, used rubber bullets and truncheons in some places. The clashes quickly spoiled what had been a festive, if expectant, atmosphere through the night and into the early morning among voters, many of whom had camped out inside polling stations to ensure that they would remain open." NY Times
Europe is replete with ethnic, linguistic and economic fault lines. There are many regions that might want to break away from the states that now contain them if such a project proves feasible for the Catalans. It is easy to name a few: South Tyrol, The Spanish Basque country. Walloon or Flemish Belgium, Scotland,, etc. Catalan success might spread the idea across the globe to parts of North America.
It is one thing for a country to voluntarily accept departure of an off-shore dependancy like Puerto Rico, but it would be wildly different and disruptive for a region of an existing state to force upon the central power its own separation. pl