Separatist group urges Catalan leaders to declare independence following poll

Anti-independence protesters carry a huge Spanish flag through the streets of Barcelona ahead of Catalonia's referendum on Sunday

But the Catalan president said the Spanish State has "lost a lot more than it had already lost, and Catalan citizens have won a lot more than they had won until now".

Spanish police were out in force from early morning through the end of the referendum, smashing voting booths and attacking voters. There were 200 Spaniards in one of the schools. Armoured vans and an ambulance were parked nearby.

Following a day of turbulence and violence in Catalonia which left over 800 people injured, the regional government defiantly declared the referendum vote valid, despite Madrid's claim that the plebiscite "never took place".

Catalonia, in the northwest region of Spain of 7.5 million people, is home to Barcelona, a city with a population of 1.6 million.

Leader Puigdemont changed plans and voted at a different station after the police action, the regional government said.

With no police in sight, they were able to cast their ballots, prompting scenes of jubilation. Hundreds of policemen were sent to Catalonia to close polling stations and prevent the arrival of voters.

A controversial referendum on Catalan independence was the flashpoint for incidents, with more than 400 people so far reported injured and Barcelona's La Liga clash with Las Palmas played behind closed doors.

Cancer research scientist Ainara Gonzalez, 32, who is originally from Pamplona in the Basque Country, said Catalonia was "out of control", adding: "The Catalan people want to exercise their right to vote".

"We don't know what's going to happen but we have to be here", she said.

Although polls show a minority-some 40 percent-of Catalans support independence from Spain, the majority do support a referendum on the issue.

The ballot has been blocked by Spain's Constitutional Court and Madrid for being at odds with the 1978 constitution so will have no legal status. "I would not have played it at all", he said on Catalunya Radio. "I think both sides involved committed grave mistakes".

Catalonia regional government spokesperson Jordi Turull told reporters on Monday that almost 90 percent of the 2.26 million Catalans chose the "yes" side, favouring their split from Spain.

Calling for sanctions against Spain for its crackdown, Catalan ministers have announced that they would approach the global court to attain justice.

An army of volunteers, aided by the resources of the Catalonian state and by the determination of its people, made sure that millions were able to put their mark on pieces of paper.

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