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In London, voices for Catalonia and democracy

After having committed human rights abuses during the Referendum for Catalan Independence that took place two years ago, the Spanish State has once again exhibited its strong hatred towards the Catalan region, this time by giving excessive sentences to pro-independence leaders who took part in the referendum on 1st October 2017.

 

Texto y fotos: Juanjo Andrés Cuervo

  

On 14th October, those of us who consider ourselves as defenders of human rights, witnessed in astonishment another step taken by the Spanish government against the Catalan secessionist leaders.

On that day, the Supreme Court sentenced various leaders who took part in the Referendum on 1st October 2017.

Amongst them, the leader of Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) or ERC, Oriol Junqueras, was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment and disqualification, on charges of sedition and embezzlement.

Alongside him, three other exgovernment ministers- Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa, former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, and ex-cabinet members Joaquin Forn y Josep Rull were condemned.

All of them were sentenced to 10 years and 12 years of imprisonment

All of this, undoubtedly, demonstrates the exaggerated hatred which has grown in the country towards the Catalan people.

After the indiscriminate beatings  by the police on 1st October 2017 when the Referendum for Catalan Independence took place, a number of things are clear..

Firstly, the continuous refusal by the Spanish Government to give option of Referendum to Catalonia has created an irreparable división.

On the other hand, the vestiges of the Franco dictatorship, which devastated the country, continue to be felt even today. This is evident in the fact that the citizens were beaten up just because they wanted to exercise their right to vote.

There is an analogy to the present situation, from the last century. When the Republicans lost the Civil War to dictator Franco, Catalonia was deprived of its right to autonomy and to speak its own language. Having been the bastion of democratic defenders during the 1930s and from where the International Brigades set off, the region faced the brunt of the anger of the Franco regime.

London in favour of the condemned

Unlike the United Kingdom, where Scotland was given the option of legitimately voting for independence, Spain has always shown disinterest and has clearly taken a stand of refusing such a possibility. Taking London as a case in point, I wonder how my native country, Spain has failed to take an opportunity to show to the world that it indeed is a democracy and that the years of dictatorship are well and truly over.

Worse still, on 14th October, the protests in Catalonia were stopped by the security forces. And the following day, multiple clashes took place in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, and the epicentre of the whole situation.

The opposite of that happened in London. The protestors, standing in front of the Spanish Embassy in London, on the same day, 14th October, were able to freely express what they think is truly unjust. We shouted in favour of the political prisoners and for democracy.

The Catalan anthem

It was 06:30 in the evening when I reached the embassy, accompanied by 2 people from Barcelona, who had suffered from the police beatings on the day of the Referendum in the Catalonian capital.

Shouts of “Independence” and “Free our political prisoners” were beginning to be heard.

Although it was an autumn night, with lashing rain  and strong gusts of wind, people kept gathering with placards, and later started to sing the Catalan anthem, “Els Segadors” (The Reapers), which refers to the uprising of the Catalan people against king Philip IV, known as Guerra dels Segadors (War of the Reapers).

Soon, dozens of protesters began to fill the night with slogans. Upon shouting the famous “¡No pasarán!” (They shall not pass), which was coined during the Civil War by those who fought against the dictatorship imposed by Franco, the protest set off to Victoria, passing through Parliament Square and opposite the statue of Winston Churchill.

Ironically it was not Prime Minister Churchill who helped Spain during the Civil War, although his nephew Esmond Romilly was part of the International Brigades that went to Spain the 1930s to defend democracy.

On the same night, shouts of “Vosaltres, feixistes, sou els terroristas” resonated and amongst the chants, slogans and shouts we reached Trafalgar Square where the group Extinction Rebellion was present. There too the voices united.

(Translated by C.Siddharth- Email: c.siddharth86@gmail.com)

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