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A violent solution 

Already weeks before the referendum on Catalonia's secession, Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy began to show muscle. On Catalan National Day 11. in September he declared that he would do "everything" to stop it.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

In the days that followed, the paramilitary Spanish police force Guardia Civil cracked down on printing and distributing material related to the referendum. Spanish authorities claimed it was unconstitutional, and over 700 Catalan mayors were called on the carpet by the court and threatened with fines of many thousands of euros if they did not oppose the vote. Wednesday 20. In September, Catalonia woke up to Spanish police raiding both public buildings and newspaper premises – seizing millions of ballots and arresting 12 politicians. This led to a spontaneous reaction from the people, which took to the streets. The day after, the students occupied the university.

Sent in the troops. Then the Interior Ministry announced that they were taking control of the Catalan police, the Mosso. In addition, they sent reinforcements from all over the country – not least in the form of the now famous boats that left for port in Barcelona. Three Looney Tunes-themed cruise ships, filled with Spanish national police as if they were a Trojan horse, were ridiculed on social media – especially when prompted by Warner Bros. tried to cover the big cartoon characters. At the same time, the motorways were filled by police cars with courses for Catalonia.

Seizure of voting material, closure of websites – the Catalan government had to create new encrypted websites and twitter profiles for the referendum.

Comprehensive censorship. Madrid was working hard to prevent the referendum. The post was banned from sending election material – which in practice meant that private mail was opened and examined. Private Unipost, which was hired by the Catalan government, had to throw in the towel when Guardia Civil appeared and confiscated 45 envelopes. The censorship and monitoring has been massive; telecommunications companies Vodafone and Movistar were required to restrict online activity, and even Google's offices in Barcelona were visited by police with strict instructions to close all apps and links related to the referendum. The group that manages the web suffix ".cat" was ordered to find and close all websites with information about the referendum. Even the Catalan authorities 'websites were shut down by the Spanish government, something WikiLeaks' Assange got involved with by creating so-called mirror sites. In order to disseminate information to citizens about where it would be possible to vote, the Catalan government created new, encrypted pages and opened twitter profiles for the occasion.


The worst was the police violence. The schools that would be used as polling stations should be closed as of Friday afternoon, but parents, teachers and students organized activities to keep them open all weekend, and stayed overnight to keep watch. When Sunday came, people from dawn formed queues outside, while volunteers chained the ballot boxes with chains and concrete. The votes were registered manually, due to the restrictions imposed by the Spanish authorities on internet access.

Already in the early hours of the morning, police attacked several schools in Barcelona and other cities in Catalonia. Police in Finnish hoods tore ballots and ballot boxes out of the hands of young and old alike. Violent civilians did not hesitate to commit violence. The videos on the web speak for themselves; For no apparent reason, rebel police attacked civilians who were either sitting on the ground or singing with their hands in the weather. Particularly serious was the police use of rubber bullets, which have been banned in Spain since 2014.

EU MP Mark Demesmaeker – in Barcelona as a participant in an international delegation of parliamentarians invited by Catalan authorities as election observers – was present when Spanish police attacked Ramon Llull school. Demesmaeker was shocked at the violence, which he thought was unnecessarily brutal. Shaken, he noted that this was the result of a lack of dialogue and that Spain could no longer be called a democracy if a referendum is considered a provocation against democracy.


Los Mossos had to choose between opposing their citizens or risk losing their jobs if they did not follow the Ministry of the Interior's order. They solved the dilemma by informing voters that they were about to commit a criminal act and made sure people understood the consequences before retiring. The Catalan fire department, which is not subject to Spanish authority, for its part, showed up to defend the polling places with the locals.

Despite the violent clashes with the police, the referendum was conducted. However, the police violence had reminded many of Franco's time.

The EU has so far expressed that this is an internal matter that Spain itself has to deal with.

The EU supports Spain. Catalonia's people were disappointed by the lack of international condemnation by the Spanish authorities. In the evening, Rajoy spoke on the direct. The rhetoric was striking; the prime minister emphasized how proud he was of his government and the police's honorable efforts against this violent attack on democracy. The pipe concert here increased as he pointed out from the big screen how he himself had always sought to have an honest dialogue, but that it had not been reciprocated. The referendum was unconstitutional and the police violence needed to protect democracy. Furthermore, Rajoy boasted of the support he had received from the EU and the international community; he had already forgotten the worry message from the UN, which asked Spain to respect its citizens' rights.

The attitude of the European Commission President Junker has always been that this is an internal matter that Spain itself can take care of. When international journalists tried to condemn police violence the day after the referendum, the European Commission's spokesman Schinas reiterated that this was not something the EU should interfere with. uphold Spanish law and protect the rights of its citizens. From France, the UK and Germany, the pipe had the same song.

Many hoped the EU would resort to Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which states that Member States using military forces against their own population should be suspended. On the contrary, when the EU goes well with the Spanish authorities' handling of the case, it increases uncertainty about what will happen next. Nevertheless, Catalonia's President Puigdemont and Barcelona's mayor Colau have asked the EU to mediate between Catalonia and Spain.


More violence desirable? With just over two million votes cast, Puigdemont announced that the "yes side" was winning and that the Republic would be proclaimed in a matter of days. If this happens, Madrid could in theory apply Constitutional Article 155 and revoke the autonomy of the Catalan region. The question is how far the parties are willing to go.

A new violent confrontation may be in the interest of both. For Rajoy's part, it gives the opportunity to strike even harder on the uprising and set an example for others who would think of disengaging. He has already seen that the EU gives him almost free rein – like the NATO countries vis-à-vis Turkey. The role of an ally provides a great deal of security. From Puigdemont's point of view, more violence by Spanish authorities will portray them as a state that suppresses its own citizens – and it will be of both invaluable symbolic importance to gain international sympathy for Catalonia's cause, and a solid argument for the establishment of its own state.

However, it is most likely that the parties will return to the negotiating table and that the negotiations will last as long as the Catalan movement loses momentum. Possibly Madrid offer Catalonia a little more autonomy than they already have, against the loosening of the demand for independence. In other words: Back to start.

Emma Bakkevik
International freelance writer for Ny Tid

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