Firefighters in Catalonia have turned out to support the independence referendum in the region by forming a human barrier between riot police and voters.
People took to social media to praise the fire officers for stepping in to 'protect the public' from the violence seen since polling stations opened on Sunday morning.
Days before the referendum was due to take place hundreds of firefighters gathered along the roof of Catalonia's history museum with a banner saying 'Love democracy'.
Thousands of people turned out to vote in the region on whether it should seek independence from the central Spanish government.
However it has been deemed illegal by Spain and the country's national police began to seize ballot boxes and voting papers from Catalan polling stations.
Hundreds of voters were also forcefully removed from polling stations with violent clashes breaking out in Barcelona and near the city of Girona.
Emergency services confirmed 38 people were hurt, mostly with minor injuries as a result of police action.
Voters described the police as “aggressive” and giving “no warning” and police were seen smashing into one polling station using a hammer and bolt cutters to break through the glass of the front door.
Seventy-three per cent of polling stations have been able to open, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull has announced.
He asked for patience, saying “there are constant attacks on the computer system”.
The ballot papers contain one question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” with two boxes: Yes or No.
Spain's Constitutional Court ordered the vote to be suspended and central authorities say it is illegal.
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