Peaceful Protest

There isn’t long to go now in the Catalan election contest which was triggered by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the same time that the imposition of Article 155 and the annulment of the Catalan declaration of independence came into force. It is hard to see how the people of Catalonia can have any great faith in the fairness of the elections given the recent actions of the Spanish state.

It seems that Article 155 is being used as an excuse for all kinds of cultural violence in Catalonia, culminating in the removal of disputed works of art from a museum in Llieda by armed Guardia Civil. I am sure that the Spanish state and their friends in the media will describe it as repatriation but it was nothing short of legalised looting and a deliberate insult to the people of Catalonia. It was meant to be a humiliation but it merely showed the insecurity of the Spanish state apparatus. It was supposed to show strength but only weakness was revealed.

It was also interesting to watch as Spain withdrew the international arrest warrant for legitimate Catalan President Puigdemont who had to leave Catalonia to escape imprisonment, along with half of his Cabinet. His Vice-President is still in prison as are the two Jordis, Cuixart and Sanchez, who run respected Catalan cultural organisations.   

There is broad conjecture about the reasoning for the withdrawal of the international arrest warrant and many believe that it was because the Spanish justice system, with its outdated charges of rebellion and sedition would be shown to be a sham. It is a system that can’t stand too much light being shone on it, lest we see its flaws all too clearly. These crimes don’t have direct equivalents in Belgian or much of European law and it is likely that the warrant would have been struck down on that basis.

It was also a master stroke for Carles Puigdemont to make his way to the heart of Europe, to publicly shame the institutions that had so utterly failed his country. By visiting the European capital he has focused minds and the march of over 45,000 Catalans in Brussels must have sent shockwaves through the establishment there. There aren’t many nations with the organisational nous to put that many boots on the ground at one time in another country, whether in times of peace or of war. It is this amazing organisation and commitment to peaceful protest that has characterised the Catalan march to independence.

On the 21st December, they have the power to show the Spanish Government that there is an overwhelming majority in favour of independence and that they will not be deterred by batons or boots, by rubber bullets or tear gas. They will not be intimidated by terrified State actors who are over-reaching and playing the only card they know how to play, which is violence. The Catalan people are staying calm and playing their own hand, which has an abundance of aces.