At nine o’clock this morning I got the following WhatsApp message:
– That’s going too far… it hurt me even though I’m no pro-independence… you shouldn’t use violence.
Followed later by a second message:
– The video isn’t from today
– I looked into it and it’s from another day… also the weather isn’t right
– Yeah, the net’s more full of disinformation than anything else. Also goes to show some people’s intentions
On the subject of policing, maybe it wouldn’t go amiss to remember what the then-Chief of the Central Region of the Mozos de Escuadra (Catalonia’s own police force) in charge of the Catalan anti-riot police once had to say about the demonstrations held in Spain back in 2011 in protest against the economic crisis.
At the time, the demonstrators (the so-called Indignados) showed a dogged commitment to non-violence, even in the face of police provocation and brutality.
Transcription from the video below (abridged):
|Journalist: …just people sitting there shouting slogans and you use violence although they’re only using verbal violence…
Inspector: The police exercises legal violence. That’s the way it is.
Journalist: The police exercises…?
Inspector: Legal violence. Because if we approached them and gave them a flower, they wouldn’t leave. And the objective there and then is to get them out of there. Even though they’re just sitting there peacefully. As soon as we say “You have to go”, they’re not sitting there peacefully anymore. They’re resisting the police.
Journalist: Peaceful resistance.
Inspector: What’s peaceful resistance? Resistance isn’t peaceful. Peaceful is when they tell you to get up and go, and you get up and go. That’s peaceful.
Journalist: Gandhi invented non-violent resistance. If Gandhi had been in the Plaza de Catalunya on the 27th of May last year, he’d have been on the receiving end, too?
Inspector: Of course. Why not? I’ve got to get them out of there. How am I supposed to do it? Talking, “Hey, you’ve got to go”, “We don’t want to”. I try to tug them out.
Journalist: There have been apparently peaceful demonstrations and the presence of the riot police has ended up causing a riot. Doesn’t that bother you?
Inspector: The police provoke violence? That’s a dangerous thing to say. The police turn up and stir up trouble? How? We get there and taunt them? I don’t think that’s right, do you? It’s us who have the most interest in there not being any trouble. But there are always police officers injured and vans smashed up…
Journalist: The odd demonstrator gets hurt as well, don’t they, inspector?
Inspector: Of course. If you don’t want anything to happen to you in a violent demonstration, don’t go. You have to accept everything that happens to you…
The explanations of the Chief of the police of Catalonia makes you wonder if it is always necessary to use superior force to solve conflicts.
We all know that to enforce the law in Europe the police doesn’t act using the same degree of force than in the United States, but often recurs to de-escalation and less forceful dispersion strategies.
But, there’s no doubt about it, a lot of what he says is true and he explains clearly and faithfully the criteria and reaction of any Spanish or European police force, no matter where it is or what it is called.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the nationalist Catalan Government did not consider it necessary to investigate the violent intervention of the Catalan police (1).
Regrettably, it’s now midday and the images that have started to do the rounds are not a world apart from the hoaxes I saw earlier this morning on WhatsApp.
I doubt if any light will be shed on the strategy behind or root of these operations in the next few days. Whether, as the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) has claimed, they were unnecessary and could have been carried out in a less distressing manner, issuing other orders and applying other means.
Not that the interventions of the Mozos, acting on the orders of the nationalist Catalan government, during the peaceful demonstrations organised by the ‘Indignados’ Movement six years ago were any less violent.
Today the Mozos, brazenly behaving more like a police force at the service of politics rather than the judiciary, have ignored instructions to prevent the referendum, declared illegal by none other than the Catalan Supreme Court.
Their indoctrination was already patent since the launch of their public information website which still doesn’t have a version in Spanish, the mother tongue of 55% of the Catalan population(2). And now we are seeing the results.
The National Police and the Civil Guard, stepping in to do the Mozos’ job, have been attacked, in some instances with stones and crowd control barriers. Tonight the Ministry of the Interior has reported 33 officers injured.
We are confronted with an increasingly divided society with one side inciting rebellion and encouraging everyone to take part in a fraudulent, reckless street party and the other, left to its better or worse judgement, trying to handle an ever tenser situation.
With the exceptions of Canada and the United Kingdom, no other country runs its affairs on the basis of independence referendums whenever part of the population so wishes.
This is a brand-new form of government which has brought both these countries serious constitutional problems (3).
Not only Spain’s borders are at risk of being blurred by independence referendums; those of every other European nation are, too. On a continent where acceptance of those borders, after two world wars, has led to 70 -extraordinary- years of peace.
Furthermore, no government would ever accept and even less comply with the results of a referendum on the terms the Catalans demand.
Because in every country in the world, this time without exception, such decisions are the exclusive competence of the national parliament.
The pro-independence camp is more than aware of the fact, but at present, as far as they are concerned, the worse things get, the better.
They have no choice. Over five years ago they decided to follow this path, running themselves into a corner from which there is no way out without breaking the established international order we have known since World War II.
They are infringing the following international, national and autonomous-community laws (the list is not exhaustive):
- International law based on the principle of self-determination as set out in the resolutions of the United Nations (read carefully)
- The European Union’s Rome Declaration(4)
- The Spanish Constitution
- Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy
- According to the Spanish Constitutional Court, the rules of procedure of the Catalan Parliament(5)
- The opinion of the Council for Statutory Guarantees(6), and
- the opinion of the Chief Counsel and the General Secretary to the Catalan Parliament(7)
It’s certainly no cause for celebration.
The politicians who have called on the population to hold the referendum, as if it were some kind of festivity, have no sense of decency and those who have taken up the invitation have no sense of responsibility.
The Civil Guard in this video has both.
We will only discover the outcome of this rebellion when everything has burned out, but there’s no sign of that happening any time soon.
Update at 11 p.m.: La Vanguardia(8), citing Catalan government sources, reports more than 800 injured, but this number includes those treated for anxiety attacks and does not specify the number of those physically injured. It would seem that one person has been severely injured in the eye.
Update at midday, 2 October 2017: According to EFE(9), the Department of Health has attended 893 people for bruises and anxiety attacks. Two are in a serious but stable condition. Libertad Digital(10) adds that one of them has eye injuries and the other, a 70-year-old man, has had a cardiac arrest. According to the same source, two other people have been admitted to hospital in Calella and Manresa, but are in a less serious condition.
Radio Televisión Española(11), citing the Ministry of the Interior, places the number of police officers and Civil Guards with bite wounds, bruises and other injuries at 431, 39 of whom required hospital treatment. There were cases of stone-throwing and violent clashes with the police.
Update 3 October 2016: According to Amnesty International(12): … as the (National police) officers withdrew, they also fired rubber balls at demonstrators who were running after them, wounding… (one demonstrator) in the right eye; … (who) underwent surgery at Sant Pau Hospital, where he remains today.
Update 19 October 2017: The Catalan Health Department has produced a report quantifying the people injured between the 1st and the 4th of October, and classifying them by type, seriousness and location. The total stands at 1,066 people. Of these, 67 suffered emotional crises and the conditions of 5 others were considered serious (description p.5); they have now been discharged (13). The figure also includes 12 police officers who were treated.
The full report can be downloaded from the Catalan Government website by clicking here.
1. Amnesty International. Report 2012. The state of the world’s human rights. p. 311. http://files.amnesty.org/air12/air_2012_full_en.pdf
“On 27May, riot police officers of the autonomous Catalan police force intervened to disperse demonstrators fromCatalonia Square in Barcelona. Medical evidence and video footage corroborated reports that riot police hit apparently peaceful demonstrators with their batons and fired rubber bullets at them. The police officers did not appear to wear identification numbers on their uniform. On 8 June, the Catalan government stated that no inquiry into the allegations of excessive use of force was necessary”.
2. Mossos d’Esquadra. http://mossos.gencat.cat/en/inici/index.html
As it is today. The things we have to put up with!
3. Constitution Reform Group. http://www.constitutionreformgroup.co.uk. “The United Kingdom risks disintegration unless we have a new constitutional settlement to guarantee the rights and autonomy of each constituent nations and region within a reformed UK”
4. Euronews. 25/03/2017. [Complete text] Read the Rome Declaration. Accessed 01/17/10: http://es.euronews.com/2017/03/25/texto-completo-lea-la-declaracion-de-roma
“The European Union is facing unprecedented challenges, both global and domestic: regional conflicts… Sixty years ago, recovering from the tragedy of two world wars, we decided to [build] a unique Union with… strong values, a community of… the rule of law.”
5. El Mundo. Marisa Recuero. 31/07/2017. Suspendida la reforma exprés del Parlament que facilitaría el referéndum (Catalan Parliament’s fast-track reform to make the referendum possible suspended). Accessed 01/17/10: http://www.elmundo.es/espana/2017/07/31/597f5fd022601d42798b45c5.html
6. La Vanguardia. 06/08/2017. Consejo Garantías da razón a oposición al avalar dictamen en ley referéndum (Guarantees Council backs opposition by endorsing decision on referendum law). Accessed 01/17/10: http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20170906/431092975492/consejo-garantias-da-razon-a-oposicion-al-avalar-dictamen-en-ley-referendum.html
7. El País. Cordero, D., Piñol. Á. 22/03/2017. El Parlament desoye a los letrados y destina recursos para el referéndum (Catalan Parliament ignores lawyers and allocates resources to the referendum). Accessed 01/17/10: https://elpais.com/ccaa/2017/03/22/catalunya/1490185133_835348.html
Also see the legal article by the Chief Counsel to the Catalan Parliament: Bayona Rocamora. 2017. A. El futur polític de Catalunya: el paper del Parlament (Catalonia’s political future: the Parliament’s role). Revista catalana de dret pública, No..54, pp:1-23. http://revistes.eapc.gencat.cat/index.php/rcdp/article/view/10.2436-rcdp.i54.2017.2979
8. La Vanguardia. Editorial staff. 01/10/2017. El balance de las cargas policiales: 844 heridos y contusionados (Aftermath of the police charges: 844 injured and bruised). Accessed on the same day: http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20171001/431698489570/heridos-cargas-policiales-referendum-1-o.html
9. Agencia EFE. 02/10/2017. Solo cuatro de los 893 heridos permanecen hospitalizados, dos de ellos graves (Only four of the 893 injured still in hospital, two in serious condition). Accessed 01/17/10: https://www.efe.com/efe/espana/politica/solo-cuatro-de-los-893-heridos-permanecen-hospitalizados-dos-ellos-graves/10002-3396320
10. Libertad Digital. LD/Agencies. 02/10/2017. La Generalidad habla de 893 heridos, pero sólo cuatro siguen en el hospital (Catalan government speaks of 893 injured, but only four still in hospital). Accessed on the same day: http://www.libertaddigital.com/espana/politica/2017-10-02/la-generalidad-habla-de-893-heridos-pero-solo-cuatro-siguen-en-el-hospital-1276606833/
11. Radio Televisión Española. RTV.es/Agencies. 02/10/2017. Ascienden a 893 los heridos durante el 1-O e Interior cifra en 431 los agentes heridos (893 injured on 1 Oct. and Interior claims 431 officers injured). Accessed on the same day:http://www.rtve.es/noticias/20171002/referendum-cataluna-govern-sube-893-heridos-durante-1-cuatro-permanencen-hospitalizados/1625044.shtml
12. Amnesty International. 2017. Spain: Excessive use of force by National Police and Civil Guard in Catalonia. Accessed on the same day: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/10/spain-excessive-use-of-force-by-national-police-and-civil-guard-in-catalonia/
13. Catalunyaplural.cat. Carla Benito. 20/10/2017. La Generalitat detalla las lesiones de los 1.066 heridos por las cargas policiales del 1-O (Catalan government specifies the injuries of the 1,066 injured by the police charges on 1 Oct.). Accessed on the same day: http://www.eldiario.es/catalunya/Salut-presenta-informe-detallado-policiales_0_699230292.html