Disturbances and public unrest are both undesirable. Stopping traffic and setting fire to rubbish skips are disturbances and they are forms of public unrest. I don’t like them because they frighten me and they cost money. I don’t even like demonstrations. We’ve seen how the yellow vest movement in France have set fire to skips. In Asturias, in 2012, nine miners were arrested for rioting. Which is precisely why they were arrested, because they caused a riot and they had to call out the riot police. They let off fireworks which they shot through pipes, aimed at targets. No one called them terrorists. If it is not about Catalonia, there’s no need to make anything up (1).
Those responsible for future disturbances can’t be considered terrorists, because terrorists, by definition, belong to a group that wants to kill people (there’s no such thing as a terrorist group which only burns rubbish bins) and —this is a key point— they take credit for their actions. There’s no point (from the terrorist’s point of view) in staging an attack and not announcing that you’ve committed it. Terrorists ought to be hunted down and we must try to stop them. But not those who engage in disturbances and street riots. If someone commits such criminal acts —and they are crimes— they ought to be stopped, just like the Asturian miners. However, you can’t spy on members of the public on the off-chance that, when it's time to protest, they’ll stop traffic, burn containers and set fire to tyres, or all three at the same time. Because if that is the case –-and I can assure you that I oppose such actions-– it means criminalizing the right to protest. And the right to protest is the very essence of democracy. If you can’t protest, you don’t live in a democracy.
All the details are being leaked to the Spanish media despite the gag order issued on the case. If we were unfortunate enough that they were really terrorists planning on committing acts of terrorism, the Ciudadanos MP Lorena Roldán wouldn’t have had to show Parliament a picture of the ETA attacks in Vic from 1991. She wouldn’t have needed to do something so despicable. The truth would have been enough.
(1) Last Monday the Spanish police arrested nine pro-independence activists who have been charged with terrorism.