This Saturday at noon Spain's Guardia Civil raided the premises of Valls weekly newspaper El Vallenc. Four Spanish gendarmes turned up at the newspaper’s HQ on carrer Colom, in the southern town of Valls (Catalonia) in search of any material that might be used to hold the referendum on independence slated for October 1. “They came in at about 11.30 and there are four of them. So far they haven’t searched the premises, they only asked to speak to the director of the newspaper”, said a source from El Vallenc. The police operation is still in progress.
Outside the weekly’s office, a group of about three hundred people gathered in answer to a call on Twitter by the Catalan National Assembly’s local chapter in Valls. Demonstrators are shouting slogans in favour of the referendum and against the raid and are chanting: “Where are the ballot slips? Oh, where could they be?”, mocking the ongoing police operation.
At one point a group brought out a ballot box and cast a symbolic vote, under the watchful gaze of the Spanish gendarmes.
The raid comes less than 24 hours after the Guardia Civil eventually entered the premises of Indugraf, a print shop in Constantí where they had been monitoring the comings and goings of employees for two days. The search yielded no results because, according to company sources, they gendarmes found nothing to do with the independence vote. This Saturday Indugraf has been searched again. Company sources speaking for the Catalan News Agency confirmed that seven Guardia Civil officers raided the print shop at 12.45 looking for referendum print material. The day before they had spent two hours in the building, following instructions from Tarragona’s district attorney.
Local media tip-off
Tarragona’s online newspaper La República tipped off the Spanish authorities when it ran a story about an alleged conspiracy whereby Indugraf was allegedly printing referendum ballot slips commissioned by El Vallenc under instructions from the Valls city council, which is governed by a separatist coalition (PDeCAT and ERC). Valls Mayor Albert Batet and the publisher of El Vallenc, Francesc Fàbregas, have denied the allegations.
The president of the Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Sànchez, was quick to respond on Twitter: “Guardia Civil raiding El Vallenc’s offices. Spanish Inquisition is alive and kicking against free press. WE SHALL VOTE”.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, also on Twitter, wrote: “All my support to @elvallenc in police raid searching for trouble, not ballot slips. Our best response: to fill the streets on National Day & ballot boxes”.