Angry over widespread police brutality during Sunday's independence referendum, Catalans drove about 500 police officers working for Spain's central government in Madrid out of their hotel rooms in Barcelona on Monday night. In at least one case, a hotel owner decided he would no longer host the cops because of their conduct.
These police are a small fraction of the 16,000 law enforcement officers Madrid sent to Catalonia to forcibly suppress the autonomous region's vote. Their aggressive tactics, including use of batons and rubber bullets on would-be voters, left 900 Catalans injured.
Local Catalan police promised Madrid in advance they would shut down polling places themselves, but on the day of the vote, they declined to intervene. Patrol cars were out and about Sunday, Bloomberg reports, but "didn't seal off polling stations and ballot organizers cheered as they drove past." The most probable explanation is their sympathies lie with the 90 percent of voters in Sunday's referendum who support an independent Catalonia.
Madrid condemned the hotel expulsions Tuesday, calling it "mafia behavior." National police have circulated reports that hotel staff are being pressured by separatists to call in sick to work or to kick the riot police out of their rooms.