A call from Catalonia: these attacks on democracy affect everyone

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by David Karvala, activist in WithCatalonia.org

I’ll try to give you an update, but things change so fast that whatever I say could quickly be overtaken by events.

There was a sort of stalemate following the 21 December 2017 elections to the Catalan parliament. The PP and their allies had hoped that the pro independence parties would lose their majority (that’s why they imposed the elections), but that didn’t happen. On the other hand, all the movement’s attention focused on parliamentary and legal issues.

There were failed attempts to elect as Catalan President Carles Puigdemont (then in exile in Belgium, and at the time of writing in a German prison); then Jordi Sánchez (then and now in prison as he has been for nearly 6 months); then Jordi Turull (then free but now in a Spanish prison)…

During this stalemate, there were no big mobilisations, by current Catalan standards, and above all no clarity as to what was to be done. There were more and more attacks on the freedom of expression — rappers being condemned to prison for their lyrics, works of art being censored… —  but no real collective response

There is still little clarity or consensus, but now at least a shared urgency.

What changed the situation was of course — as has happened so many times in this struggle — the Spanish state increasing its repression.

On Friday 23 March, Judge Llarena sent 5 MPs back to prison: Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull and former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell. The same judge also reactivated the European Arrest Warrant against Carles Puigdemont and the members of his government in exile (Clara Ponsatí, Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig), as well as Marta Rovira, ERC general secretary and MP, and Anna Gabriel, former parliamentary spokesperson for the CUP.

That night there were mass protests across Catalonia as well as more widely.

On Sunday 25 March, Carles Puigdemont was arrested in Germany while returning to Belgium from his very successful visit to Finland. That evening 55,000 people joined an urgently called massive demonstration in Barcelona, and there were big protests in other cities. Alongside these, major roads were blocked in different parts of Catalonia. The police responded with violence in some areas, even using plastic bullets, prohibited under Catalan law.

No one knows what will happen now, but a few things are clear: 

  • This is an unprecedented attack on democracy by a member state of the European Union, which is supposed to protect the rights of its citizens.
  • In this crisis, the question is not whether you favour independence or not. It is whether you defend democracy and people’s right to decide about their lives, or you stay silent in the face of repression and authoritarianism.
  • Supporting the Catalan people at this moment is an urgent task internationally, and it’s not charity; solidarity never is. Solidarity means understanding that we have a shared interest in this struggle. If they can trample on people’s rights in Catalonia today, while governments remain silent (or in fact actively or passively support the repression), then tomorrow the same could happen in Scotland, Germany… anywhere. If we stop them now, it’s a victory for us all.
Jonathon Shafi