20-S: the cause against the Jordi falls apart thanks to the people’s cameras

A documentary proves the conciliatory role played by the two Catalan grassroots leaders

“We’re on friendly terms now and talking to each other”. Those were the words of ANC leader Jordi Sànchez speaking about Spain’s Guardia Civil in the late afternoon of September 20, 2017. It has been a testing day, with the search of the HQ of Catalonia’s Finance Ministry sometimes looking like a pretext to bait the demonstrators outside into starting a riot that would justify taking the crackdown up a notch. The Spanish authorities are edgy because the referendum on independence [which a Spanish court of law has ruled illegal] is just around the corner (October 1) and if they fail to avert it, it will be humiliating. Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart [the leaders of pro-independence grassroots groups Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural] have been busy all morning trying to mediate between the Spanish authorities and the thousands of protestors gathered on Rambla de Catalunya, outside the Catalan ministry’s HQ. However, the Guardia Civil have sabotaged every mediating effort they have made so far. “We’ve been lured into a goddamned trap!” Jordi Sànchez had complained hours earlier, hinting that the police operation underway had a hidden agenda. But the atmosphere is becoming less strained now and Sànchez even claims —presumably speaking metaphorically— that they might go off and have a cold one together. That was 279 days ago. Since then Sànchez has spent 253 nights in a prison cell in Soto del Real [near Madrid], together with Òmnium president Jordi Cuixart.

These are some of the scenes featured in 20-S, a Mediapro documentary that TV3 [the Catalan public broadcaster] will show on Thursday evening after the 9 o’clock news. A preview is scheduled this evening in Barcelona’s Aribau cinema. Written by Lluís Arcarazo and directed by Jaume Roures, the documentary provides a front row view of the events of September 20. That day Mediapro had sent out a camera crew to document everything that was going on at all times and, furthermore, they have since collected every bit of footage that the people who were rallying in the street have made available to them. There is no narrator: it is the pictures that tell the story of the day, including the half a dozen times when the two Jordis called on the protestors to remain calm and explicitly rejected any violence. This openly contradicts the cause led by judge Pablo Llarena that has landed both Jordis in prison.

Speaking for Público and ARA, Lluís Alcarazo explained that “the widespread use of cameras has allowed information to be democratised and the footage clearly shows that at no point were they aware of leading a rebellion of any sort”. Indeed, the footage shows that the Guardia Civil vehicles which the Jordis climbed on top of that evening —specifically, to call off the protest— had been used as an elevated platform of sorts by reporters and demonstrators alike. That was the footage —plus the odd minor incident later on— which Spain’s TV networks kept looping all the time.

The notion that a narrative has been construed is also apparent from the voice recordings of Catalan police boss Josep Lluís Trapero’s deposition before the Audiencia Nacional judge in Madrid, also featured in the documentary. The Catalan police chief can be heard stating that two Guardia Civil officers stayed by the front door of the ministry’s office at all times, which the prosecutor questions sarcastically, given the size of the crowd that had gathered outside the main entrance. However, the video recordings clearly show that, indeed, two Guardia Civil officers stood guard by the door at the very end of the corridor which the ANC and Òmnium leaders had managed to open up through the crowd in order to allow access into the building and out of it. Alcarazo admits that “we could have made a big deal of the tone of the questions posed to Trapero in court, which were uttered as if he was already on trial”.

The documentary also focuses on the “visit” paid to the CUP’s HQ by Spain’s Policía Nacional. It was a rather odd move when the Spanish police attempted to enter the headquarters [of the anti-capitalist pro-independence left party] without a warrant. When the CUP leaders asked them to produce one —and the police failed to do so—, two police units were staged for hours on end blocking the streets adjacent to the CUP’s building. This was a rather peculiar setup that left no escape route. Once again, according to eyewitness accounts featured on the documentary, it lends credence to the idea that it was a bait operation that sought to elicit a violent response which would have justified the extensive use of force. However, the alleged provocation was met with a peaceful resistance response by the CUP leadership in an atmosphere that you could even describe as festive. The pictures of Anna Gabriel, Eulàlia Reguant, Mireia Boya and Mireia Vehí dancing in the street was in stark contrast with the hostility displayed by the Spanish police officers in their navy blue uniforms.

The same applies to the now-famous firearms which were left unattended inside one of the Guardia Civil vehicles. First of all, there is no possible explanation for such gross negligence by the Spanish law enforcement officers. Once again, this fuels the notion that they sought to instigate a violent incident. Secondly, the documentary includes footage taken from a Catalan police helicopter which proves that, once it transpired that there were weapons inside the vehicle, they were watched at all times, with plainclothes Catalan police officers standing by, in case they were needed.

Alcarazo explains that “some of the pictures show tension, but we have found no footage of anyone throwing as much as a piece of wood. I was there myself and the only thing people chucked were carnations”. In fact, Jordi Sànchez can be seen holding a red carnation for a good portion of the day: it is a splotch of bright red that contrasts vividly with the pervasive grey of the state’s machinery whose cogs began to turn at full speed on that September 20.

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