Spanish Government response to Catalonia was 'self-harm on an international scale'
The violent actions of the Spanish police will endure as a 'stark reminder of a dark day' in Spain's history, says Ronnie Cowan MP.
After a week during which I attended a three day congress on Basic Income and listened to speakers from thirty three countries from across the globe promote the ethos of humanity and after spending two days engaging with the leading experts of Portugal explain their attitude and approach to drug reform, based on respect, the scenes of police brutality emanating from Catalonia on Sunday the 1st of October were both a startling and cruel reminder of how quickly society can break down when the powers that be lack those ethics. When enforcing their wishes is all that matters, then respect and humanity are early casualties.
The Spanish Government made the case that the independence referendum was illegal. They then took the stance that it would not go ahead. The Spanish government had alternatives, they could have allowed the referendum to take place and then declare it null and void or they could have respected the outcome. Instead they deployed police from around Spain to Catalonia and their role was to disrupt and dissuade by use of intimidation and violence. I had a number of friends who were attending the referendum as observers. They are not hot headed or overly emotional people. They have all lived lives, travelled, seen a bit of the world, good and bad. To hear their accounts of having to stand back and watch fully grown men dressed in body armour and a helmet, beat an elderly lady to the ground, throw young girls down stairs and randomly baton youths in an orgy of self promoting violence was both disturbing and damning. When people break the law, they are arrested. There was no attempt to arrest these people, this was all about brute force and ignorance. This was about the heavy hand of a government that hasn’t moved as far from its authoritarian origins as we had all hoped. When their authority was threatened they lashed out.
Hopefully those innocents injured on Sunday will heal soon. But the damage that Spain has inflicted on its own democracy, it’s standing within the European Union and its own citizens, in all parts of Spain, will take much longer to mend. While the Spanish government’s intentions were clearly designed to be detrimental to Catalonia, in the end all they achieved was self harming on an international scale.
Since the election the European Union, which has been quick to condemn violence in other parts of the world have failed to condemn the outrageous acts of violence perpetrated on the citizens of Catalonia along with the removal of ballot boxes from polling stations. Spain’s King Felipe VI waded in rather predictably calling for “unity” and calling the Catalonian authorities “irresponsible”. While the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, continues to ignore the request for mediation from Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. If the Spanish government insist on sticking to their hardline approach then it is impossible to see how there can be any form of resolution. And the longer these wounds remain open, the more they will fester.
The violent actions of the Spanish police, which were captured so graphically on the mobile phones of the ordinary men and woman of Catalonia, will continue to be a stark reminder of a dark day in Spain’s history when its government brutally attempted to subdue democracy. Meanwhile amidst the fallout the citizens of Catalonia have maintained their dignity by reacting through peaceful mass protests, singing songs and withdrawal of their labour.
As we try to break this deadlock I defer to Dr Martin Luther King when he said: “there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it, because it is right.”
Ronnie Cowan is the SNP Member of Parliament for Inverclyde