A Small Unionist Demo in favour of the Police outside Spain Govt Delegation on October 4th
On Wednesday evening, the day after the general strike, I was sitting at home about to watch the 9 o’clock news when I heard noise coming from outside the Spanish Government Delegation offices just round the corner. It was a small unionist demonstration in support of the police.
Comments on the Photo
Before I start transcribing the commentary to the video, I think it’s worth commenting on the photo I’m using to illustrate the post. It’s not from the evening in question but it is from one of the many demonstrations that were held outside the Spanish Government Delegation in favour of the unity of Spain.
The placard reads “Basta ya de dividir a los catalanes”, which translates as “Stop dividing the Catalans” and it raises the question of how we define a Catalan. Is it some who was born in Catalonia? Is it someone who lives in Catalonia and can vote there? or Is it someone who feels and speaks Catalan?
I’m sure I’ll discuss this question over the videos that cover the unionist demonstrations but there definitely is a battle over who has the right to call themselves Catalan. This goes to the heart of the problem because it turns into a question of legitimacy because a person who has the legitimate right to call themselves a Catalan has the legitimate right to decide the political future of Catalonia.
Obviously, any Spanish citizen who lives in Catalonia can vote and this means they have a legal right to decide Catalonia’s political future but whether they have a moral right to do so is another question. One of the difficulties that is one of divided identities. This gives rise to newspaper surveys like the following, which was done by the Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió in 2016 and has the percentages in brackets.
- Do you consider yourself a) Only Catalan (14.4%) b) More Catalan than Spanish (19.3%) c) As Catalan as Spanish (41.9%) d) More Spanish than Catalan (5.3%) e) Only Spanish (8.8%)
If we simplify the data we can see that 33.7% of people living in Catalonia consider themselves mainly Catalan, 14.1% consider themselves mainly Spanish and 41.9% consider themselves to be both Catalan or Spanish. Although the majority of people have a dual identity, Catalan society is still pretty divided.
I find it hard to imagine that such a high percentage of Scots, even at the time of their referendum on independence, would consider themselves to be Scottish but not British and, even though they might not want to be British, hardly anyone in Scotland would consider themselves British but not Scottish. This is because Scots have a right to call themselves a nation and nobody else in the rest of the UK would see someone’s Scottish identity as implying that they weren’t fully British.
The situation is very different in Spain and many people see the Spanish and Catalan identities as being mutually exclusive. The question is whether someone who sings “Yo soy español, español. español” (I’m Spanish, Spanish, Spanish) can really consider themselves to be a Catalan. I’m sure I’ll be raising this and similar points in my video commentaries.
Comments on the Video
As with all my videos throughout the month of October, my aim was simple. I just wanted to show what was happening and then comment on it.
When I arrived on the corner of Mallorca and Roger de Llúria, I was clear in my belief that everyone has a right to their identity but immediately felt that the Spanish unionist demonstration was more aggressive than the Catalan pro-independence demonstrations I’d covered so far.
The leader of the Partido Popular in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, had called for demonstrations in favour of the unity of Span. People were shouting “No os engaña Catalaña es España” (Don’t fool yourselves Catalonia is Spain) and “Puigdemont a prision” (Puigdemont, go to prison).
Perhaps it was a combination of my bias and the fact that it was dark but the rojigualda Spanish flags draped around people’s shoulders seemed a lot more menacing than the esteladas I’d seen the previous day. There were occasional Catalan senyeras in order to make the point that these people considered themselves Catalans as well but the rojigualdas with its imposing coat of arms in the middle definitely dominated.
In the middle the crowd a group of people were holding a large banner, which read “Gobierno de España, cumpla y haga cumplir la constituciòn. Articulo 155 ya!” (Government of Spain, do your job and make them obey the Constitution. Article 155 now!). The organisers began reading out articles from the Spanish Constitution that they believed the referendum and the independence movement had contravened.
The key articles are 1.2 which reads “National sovereignty belongs to the Spanish people, from whom all State powers emanate.” and Article 2, which states “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognises and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.”
The crowd started chanting “No estais solos” (You are not alone) in support of the National Police and Civil Guard who had participated in the violence on referendum day. I know the situation was polarised but I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone who had watched TV over the past few days and seen the brutality with which the police behaved could offer them their support.
The dominant language amongst the crowd was Spanish. Shouts went up of “Viva Cataluña!”, which means “Long Live Catalonia!” in Spanish rather than the Catalan “Visca Catalunya!”
Although the crowd was smaller, the level of excitement seemed much higher than the relaxed mood of the Catalans. From the megaphone the speakers read statements saying that “all Spaniards were equal under the law” and that “we reject discrimination” so despite having the power of the state behind them and the violence of the police to back them up, they seemed to on a kind of victim narrative. This was probably because in Catalonia they’re a minority and also perhaps because the people on this first unionist demonstration since the referendum were likely to be more radical.
Chants of “Puigdemont a prisión” went up again. I really tried to point out how everybody has a right to their identity but looking at the two sides, I wasn’t surprised that I had sided with the Catalans. This was like a night rally. The talk from the megaphone was all about judges giving rulings and sentences being fulfilled. It was clear they wanted the full weight of the law and the power of the state to be used against the Catalans.
My thoughts as I walked back home was that perhaps their is something bellicose and authoritarian about certain aspects of the Spanish personality. It didn’t seem fair. They were a minority who claimed to be a majority and used the power of the state to stop anyone finding out what the real figures were.