There is an excellent article by the Guardian – link below – that tells the story of the conflict and provides quite valid observations on how the Spanish government used force to prevent the referendum from taking place today, a view I totally agree with, so my comments here are brief but provides points I believe relevant not only in this conflict but any potential other ones in Europe;
What we know from experience is that de-escalation of tension by force has a reverse effect both in terms of causing more violence as well as achieving the opposite effect when used as political pressure. The thing that is confusing is how western governments seems to ignore – willingly or not – this simple basic fact. There is no way around settling this issue without direct & intense internal negotiations based on Democratic/Liberal values where governance is based on consent NOT power. The EU also has a key role here by actively supporting these efforts – not just by empty statements but by action to help in the mediation where appropriate. The reason why it is important for the EU to be involved is because we all know that alt-right forces that have swept across Europe in the last few years are likely to use these national conflicts as opportunities to disseminate their sick ideologies; remember they thrive/build on public frustration & human tragedies. So my suggestion is keep this threat on the radar and NOT allow them further space in Europe. More importantly it is images like the ones we’ve seen on TV that undermine our own Democratic/Liberal credentials and paints a confusing picture to the rest of the world when we preach values we do not seem to follow thus affecting our ability to defend them in other countries. It is true that Democracy is not yet a perfect form of governance and is a working progress but we need to be fast learners to help correct failures and allow our understanding of Democracy/Liberalism to evolve/adapt to a changing social/political landscape that is becoming ever more complex.