It’s astonishing to watch as events continue to unfold in Catalonia. The news from there seems increasingly incredible. We are watching the Spanish state blow it’s international credibility to pieces in front of us, as they repeatedly and meticulously aim at their feet and pull the trigger.
There are so many different things happening that almost defy belief. We have the peaceful leader of a civic nationalist movement being kept in prison without trial because he wont recant his pro-independence views. Amnesty International are now calling for the release of Jordi Sanchez, calling his continued imprisonment “excessive” and “disproportionate”. He is the leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and has been in prison since October for the supposed crime of organising a peaceful pro-independence demonstration.
A member of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force is to be disciplined on his return to Catalonia for escorting President Puigdemont to Belgium and staying there with him as his close protection detail. He has been officially demoted in his absence and is understood to be currently on leave of absence in Brussels. This man did nothing more than his duty, escorting the legitimate president of Catalonia safely to the heart of Europe. The idea that he is being punished for ensuring the safety of his charge should be ludicrous to any fair minded person.
A Catalan mechanic who refused to repair the car of a Spanish National Police officer has been charged with “hate crimes”. He simply refused the custom of the officer, there is no possible “hate” in that or any crime for that matter. This was a very simple refusal to provide help or service to an officer from a police force that beat up unarmed civilians who were trying to vote. That is what I would hope more people would do. It shouldn’t be without social cost to be a member of the Civil Guard or National Police in Catalonia in the current circumstances.
The stories keep coming, a rapper is looking at potentially facing 12 years in prison for mocking the police and the monarchy in his lyrics. Freedom of speech? Not in Catalonia, not now. Yet Europe slumbers on, in blissful, knowing ignorance of the fact that Spain is slipping back to a dark place, that it is beset by the evils of a past which was never truly acknowledged, met head on and resolved. The Economist noted that Spain had slipped on it’s democracy scale and I cannot but see it slipping further if recent actions are allowed to stand.
Of all the stories coming out of Catalonia, the one that illustrated the current Spanish malaise most visibly was the fact that a clown had his photo taken next to a Civil Guard officer, mimicking his pose while wearing a red nose. He has also been charged with a hate crime. It is hateful to laugh at the oppressors, don’t you know? It is the one thing that all tyrannical regimes truly fear. Laughter has ushered even the most brutal regimes from power. The Ceausescu regime in Romania was over when the crowd laughed at the dictator and they say how weak he truly was. He lasted four days after that.
My message to Catalonia is keep mocking the oppressors, persist with the peaceful protests, continue denying service to those who beat your friends, colleagues and family members for expressing their democratic choices. The present may be hard, with a large personal cost being borne by many people but there is an inertia at the moment that cannot persist and the cracks are beginning to show. A former member of the constitutional court came out and condemned the way decisions are being made and asserted that they were not all legal. Hold true to your beliefs like Jordi Sanchez, in the face of the even the most virulent opposition because the reward for doing so will be an independent republic to call your own.