On Tuesday, more than a year after the events, the judge investigating the baton charges by the Spanish police during the 1-Oct referendum in the Catalan capital began questioning the first policemen being investigated. According to courthouse sources, one of the inspectors that appeared before the magistrate, an officer deployed with the units operating at the Mediterranean School and the Pia de Sant Antoni School polling stations, said that he did not see "excesses" on the part of his subordinates that day, despite the images shown to him of voters bloodied after having been hit in the face.
This is the biggest case to date concerning police violence during the referendum, which now has 24 officers being investigated, including several commanders. In addition to this inspector, a deputy inspector and two more officers involved in the baton charges at the Pau Claris Secondary School, the Mediterranean School, and the Pies de Sant Antoni school took the stand.
The city council of Barcelona, which is the people's plaintiff in the case, has already announced that it will request a statement, as investigated parties, from 24 officers who have been identified from images recorded at the Pau Claris School polling place. Deputy Mayor Jaume Asens, who travelled to the Justice Complex, has once again insisted on the need for those responsible for the operation in the city, as well as the government of Pedro Sánchez, "to help name " the officers responsible for the injuries to voters.
According to judicial sources, the inspector who led the operations at the Mediterranean School and at the Pia de Sant Antoni School said that he did not see "any disproportionate actions" at the polling stations, despite being shown images of voters bloodied after receiving a blow to their faces. In fact, according to these same sources, the commander of the National Police, identified that day by the code sign "Camel 1", spoke at all times of "alleged blood" when describing the injuries suffered by these people, as —in his view— it could have been "paint".
Both this commander and a deputy inspector, who testified in connection with the charges at the Pau Claris Secondary School and the Mediterranean School, talked about a "hostile" and "aggressive" attitude by voters.
The deputy inspector had been recognized in the images provided by a plaintiff who accused him of twisting her fingers and pushing her down the stairs of the Pau Claris Secondary School. The policeman, according to the same sources, denied injuring her, claiming that she was the young woman who had an "aggressive" attitude, and said that she "fell down the stairs" while resisting officers. In contrast, the officer did not recognize himself in the footage where he is seen striking the face of a voter at the Mediterranean school polling place.
They did not name the person who gave the order
One of the keys to the case is to identify the operational commanders, not only on the scene but also in the control room. The two commanders who testified today did not provide any information on this point. The inspector, according to police sources, said they received orders from a command center, but did not name who was involved.
In contrast, the deputy inspector said they had not received any concrete instructions on how to act on the ground, beyond the goal of "removing ballot boxes" and preventing voting.
"We hope that in the next few months those responsible for giving orders on those days will also take the stand, as well as those who could have prevented what happened but did not do so", announced Asens from the Barcelona City Council, while insisting on asking Spain’s Ministry of Interior and the government of Pedro Sánchez to stop "sabotaging" the investigation and help name the people in charge of the police operation.
Some of those injured during the baton charges gathered this morning outside the Justice complex; among them was Roger Español, the citizen who lost an eye to a rubber bullet fired by police outside the Ramon Llull Secondary School. He read a statement on behalf of everyone.
Español pointed out that the case of the baton charges of 1-O in Barcelona should not serve to pursue specific police officers, but to judge "a way of acting throughout the 1st of October" that he considers "disproportionate". He reminded that the "injuries inflicted" were intended to "cause pain", rather than just prevent the voting.