Police brutality has become a phrase heavily associated with the likes of America and the U.K, as political tensions across the world mount.
We have seen the extremities of these tensions erupt as human rights are consistently breached. What we know as modern democracy seems ambiguous as countries continue to toe the lines of justice. Unbeknownst to some, Spain has remained at the centre of controversy for their violent internal politics and civil unrest. However, this has been overshadowed by its allies’ own atrocities. So why aren’t we talking about it? This week, Spanish police clashed with millions of civilians over an “illegal Catalonia independence referendum.” Scenes of police beating young women and the elderly sent waves through social media. In one horrifying video, two policemen brutally beat a girl with batons for singing in peaceful protest as she begs for them to stop. Many are describing their actions as “New age Fascism.”
Here’s a brief background on Catalonia: Catalonia is an autonomous region in Spain, similar to Scotland and their status in the United Kingdom. For some time, Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, have pushed for independence from Spain. The region, which is extremely rich in its own separate culture, formally recognises Catalan as their primary language over Spanish.
Despite Catalonia’s bid for independence, Spain has made it clear that it is not willing to grant it. This has lead to years of political clashes and subsequently, a divided Spain.
So what exactly is The Catalan Referendum? The referendum, like the recent ones in The U.K, Scotland and Greece, sought to grant Catalonia its freedom from Spain. So what is the problem? Why all the violence? Well, the referendum was considered ‘illegal’ as Madrid and the Spanish government had banned it and denounced its legitimacy. Ultimately this did not stop the Catalans, who ran the referendum in spite of this.
On orders of the Spanish government, Spanish policemen marched into Catalonian ballot stations this week. They confiscated ballot boxes and shut down voting stations. They disbanded peaceful protests and beat civilians, leaving over 900 people injured.
In shocking footage, Catalan firemen were seen forming a blockade to try and protect local people. As a result, the firemen were then beaten with batons, and shot at with rubber bullets. In other videos, elderly women were seen bleeding from the head; young women are dragged to the ground by their hair and civilians drop kicked down flights of stairs. Let’s take a second to let these words marinate. Firemen had to protect civilians from the police. The police shed the blood of women and the elderly.
What is the current political climate? An estimated 90% of Catalonia’s two million voters have reportedly voted in favour of independence from Spain. It’s easy to take democracy for granted and who would ever think that a country as “developed” as Spain would be at the centre of such controversy? The ability to vote and right to freedom of speech is being taken away from the Catalan people before our very eyes. In response, Catalan has declared a general protest as schools, shops and roads close in solidarity for the atrocities being committed by the Spanish government. On Sunday Barcelona FC closed the stadium doors of Camp Nou to fans waiting to watch a match against Las Palmas in protest to the Spanish government’s treatment of the Catalans.
Despite worldwide shock, Spain, who is a member of the European Union, has not faced many political consequences from other member states. Instead, politicians have chosen to remain neutral by arguing that: a member state’s right to independently conduct their own affairs takes precedence over articles that prevent member states from using disproportionate military force against its own people.
The reaction to the referendum stems far deeper than minor squabbles over flags and languages. The silencing of Catalonia represents Spain’s willingness to ignore the wishes of the mass to maintain economic and political stagnancy. Moreover it illustrates that in reality, developed countries are no better than their developing counterparts in terms of exerting unjust force as a means of power.
The current political climate in Spain is extremely unstable as the turmoil continues to unfold. However, with the increase in social media coverage, the world is finally seeing some of the atrocities closer to home. In the last few days, Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont has announced that they will officially declare themselves independent from Spain. The King of Spain (Felipe VI) has vehemently denounced this and says it will have catastrophic economic consequences. He also suggests that Spain will do whatever it takes to prevent this from coming to fruition. What we can expect, is potentially more violence as Spain’s worst political crisis in decades continues to worsen.
In light the on going battle for those who have fought for their democratic voice and suffered at the hands of state violence; I urge you to write to your local politicians, Spanish embassies and governments in condemnation of this week’s event. It merely takes an email or a retweet. If we remain silent, we advocate.
I leave you with this quote to consider:
“We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.” An Inspector Calls- J.B Priestley.
Written by Monique Monrowe