Bristol woman in Barcelona during independence protests

Protestors in Barcelona gather and wait for the march. - (Kristen Abate)

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Kristen Abate spent a month traveling Europe. She was in Barcelona just as protests over police violence during the Catalonian independence referendum were breaking out.

"One of our people on our tour had a balcony on the fifth floor," Abate said. "We went up there to look, and as far as you can see left and right [there were] just people, crowds and crowds of people. I've never seen anything like it."

Reports say that 700,000 protestors were in Barcelona. Abate took videos of the crowds on her cell phone.

"At first I was a little nervous, but after we saw that it was more of a peaceful type of protest I was fine," Abate said. "It was crazy just to see how fast they multiplied, and it was cool to hear the chants they were chanting."

Professors at Northeast State Community College said that this conflict over independence goes back hundreds of years.

"There's a long history of the area being very independent," Dr. David Toye said. "They have their own language. They speak Catalonian, which is distinct from Spanish."

"It's a very wealthy part of Spain," Professor Stuart Frye said. "They contribute right at 20 percent of the total federal budget, but they only get back in return about 14 percent. So they feel like they're getting the shaft."

Abate said during her visit many shops and attractions were shut down because of strikes, and she hopes they find a resolution so more people can enjoy the city.

"I would love to go back when that isn't happening," she said.

On Sunday, Spanish law enforcement used rubber bullets on voters participating in a referendum on independence for Catalonia: a region of Spain. According to reports, they injured 853 people. The Spanish government has declared the referendum to be illegal. Catalan leaders say that 90 percent of those who voted were in favor of independence. Turnout was low however, with only 42 percent of the population voting. The vote is heavily contested.