This Wednesday, Spain’s National Police temporarily detained without a court order a total of 16 people accused of having occupied the AVE [high-speed train] tracks in Girona. Among those arrested were the mayor of Verges, Ignasi Sabater, and the mayor of Celrà, Dani Cornellà, both members of the CUP. The incident was the result of a generic complaint to the police –in this case brought by Adif [the state-owned railway infrastructure manager] against the individuals who participated in the protest at Girona’s train station on October 1, one year after the referendum. This could have been resolved by issuing those concerned with a summons to give evidence voluntarily. Instead, the Spanish Police launched a high-profile operation that included arrests in the middle of the street by police wearing balaclavas who in some cases initially failed to identify themselves as law enforcement officers, in a clear attempt to intimidate the individuals concerned. Moreover, one of the detainees, Carles Palacio, is a photojournalist who was working at the train station during the incident on October 1 and visibly wearing a reporter’s identification. Everyone was released without charge in the early evening.
Regrettably, it is not the first time that Spain’s forces of law and order have carried out such melodramatic arrests which generate genuine feelings of helplessness in those who are affected, who suddenly find themselves in a police car with no idea as to where they are being taken. And to top it all, without having been issued a warrant first. Legal experts point out that the police have the power to arrest someone to obtain a statement before taking them before a judge, but in this case there was no objective reason to proceed in such a manner. They did not pose a flight risk (three months after the event) and they do not pose a risk to the public. On the contrary, some, such as Sabater and Cornellà, hold public office.
It is hard not to detect a political motivation behind the operation, in the form of a provocation, to stir up trouble in the lead up to the 1-O trial. Once again, it calls for us to keep a cool head and to refuse to fall into their trap. The crackdown’s objective is two-pronged: on the one hand, to aims to demotivate the population, and on the other, to cause outbursts of violence on the streets in order to justify further acts of repression. It is a spiral that always benefits the strongest, in this case the Spanish state.
The good news this Wednesday was the unity shown by everyone in the pro-sovereignty movement, from the CUP to the Comuns, and including the Catalan Government and Parliament, in condemning such a disproportionate police action. One of the pillars of the process, especially as a result of prison without parole and the judicial persecution of independence, must be the condemnation of the violations of civil rights and basic rights, such as the right to protest, the freedom of expression and even the right of journalists to do their job. In Spain there are still many (Vox, the PP and Ciudadanos) who believe that the solution for Catalonia involves police repression and curtailing basic liberties. That’s why this ought to serve as the rallying point around which to forge a social consensus that goes beyond the desire for independence and which brings together all those who seek a democratic solution to Catalonia’s political process.