Catalonia responds to police violence: ‘people are angry, very angry’

The Guardian reports: Like much of Catalonia, the Hotel Vila in Calella was shuttered on Tuesday morning, its rooms empty, its doors locked and a sign reading Hotel Tancat (hotel closed) stuck to a window.

But on Sunday night, hours after the Spanish police’s attempts to halt the Catalan independence referendum exploded into violence, the hotel became another frontline in the skirmishes between locals and Spanish police; a further manifestation of the furious disbelief that has triggered strikes across the region and which brought thousands of people on to the streets of Barcelona and Girona on Tuesday to protest against an unaccustomed brutality.

Calella, a seaside resort town 36 miles north-east of Barcelona, the Catalan capital, has long served as a billet for Spanish police officers who stay there when they are deployed to keep order at large-scale events in the city.

However, the Guardia Civil officers lodged in the Hotel Vila over the weekend soon learned that they were no longer welcome.

At around 10.30 on Sunday night, incensed by the scenes of police brutality in nearby Sant Cebrià de Vallalta and around many parts of Catalonia, a group of local people headed to the hotel chanting: “Out occupation forces!” A video of the protest also shows some people shouting “fascists!” and calling the officers sons of bitches.

A group of officers – some carrying batons – emerged and, despite the intervention of members of the Catalan police force, allegedly attacked the protesters. According to the town’s mayor, 14 people were injured, of whom four were taken to hospital.

“We’ve had Guardia Civil and national police staying here for years before big football matches and nothing’s ever happened,” said one local business owner, who did not wish to be named. “There had never been problems until now. All the bars around here used to be full of them. But now people here are scared.”

By Monday night, the Guardia Civil had left Calella, leading Ramón Cosio, a spokesman for Spain’s main police union, to complain that officers were “fleeing from hotel to hotel; they are like rats who have to hide”.

The Unión de Guardias Civiles went further, saying the “harassment” of its officers in Catalonia was “more like Nazi Germany than what you see in any other country where democracy reigns and rights are guaranteed”.

With Madrid under growing international pressure to resolve its worst political crisis in decades, crowds gathered in Barcelona on Tuesday, chanting “independence”, repeating the cries of “occupying force” and urging Spanish police to leave the region. [Continue reading…]

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  1. Internationalist says:

    This will be my final comment on this matter. After pointing out that the plucky separatist underdogs are actually the main perpetrators of violence upon Catalan society, and after a (somewhat wistful) evocation of Europe as an ideal guarantor of democratic fair play, I’ll talk about realistic outcomes.

    Things may calm down, and the Spanish government may come to its senses and muddle through. The wretched state of affairs continues, with Catalonia caught between the separatists’ fervour and the practical impossibility of secession. The memory of these upheavals becomes enshrined in the nationalists’ just-add-water discourse of superiority, victimhood and liberation. Until next time.

    It’s unlikely but not impossible that the nationalists end up getting what they want, and establish their little republic. In that case, one should think “Brexit shambles” on steroids.

    Of the many factors contributing to British disarray and cluelessness over Brexit, two stand out:

    – The Tory party (i.e. the British class system) tends to bring forth leadership cadres that are both inadequate and aggressively oblivious to their inadequacy;

    -The Eurosceptics’ visceral, categorical dislike of the EU has allowed them to dispense with the need of having an inkling of how the EU actually works, of how it has transformed British law and society, of the status enjoyed by the UK as a member state, and of how important it has been for the British economy and Britain’s position in the world.

    The same can be said of the Catalan nationalist leadership and of Catalonia’s relationship to Spain/the rest of Spain, only more, so much more so.

    Obsessive zeal and persistence are the only qualities required of Catalan nationalists. After three generational turns of its hand wheel, the nationalist meat grinder can only squeeze out people unable to govern their way out of a paper bag.

    (Take a look at this old Hardtalk interview with the modestly-named “Minister of Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations & Transparency of the Catalan Government”, Raül Romeva i Rueda, and bear in mind that compared to his boss, Carles Puigdemont, he’s a towering intellectual presence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCMdJSJhD5w)

    These Lilliputian nationalists would be confronted with the enormity of the task of putting an end to a country that, for all its faults, has a very tangible reality as a modern state and a sizeable amount of historical pedigree.

    The underlying Milkmaid-and-Her-Pail economic logic of separatism goes a bit like this: we are net contributors to the state’s budget, therefore we are opressed and better, therefore independence will allow us to do better because it will allow us to show we are better because we won’t be oppressed because we won’t be paying taxes to the state. A cargo-cult of selfishness, indeed.

    (Obviously, one has to wonder about the vapidity of any “leftist” who chooses to mistake this misshapen offspring of neoliberalism for some kind of colonial struggle for national liberation.)

    Most importantly, while the current implementation of Brexit “merely” threatens to involve treating several millions of European residents as guest workers on sufferance, in an independent Catalonia the nationalists would have to move beyond their current hegemony in Catalan civil society in order to actively negate the Spanish identity of what is at the very least one full half of their countrymen.

    The only long-term solutions are a detoxication cure, or a brutal comedown.