We have arrived in Catalunya in time for the referendum on October 1st.
#1Oct is a handy reference for people who use Twitter and who want to see what is happening. There is a lot written in English in case you can’t read Catalan! Why in English? Because it is very important that people outside Catalunya know what is happening and offer support.
Why support the Catalan people?
Because whether you think there should be independence or not, we all need to know that in Europe the democratic right to vote is protected. People should have the right to express their opinions freely without being threatened or bullied or arrested.
This last week has seen a lot of activity here in Catalunya. People who want to vote have been very busy, getting together, creating imaginative ways of protecting their right to walk to a civic building and to make a cross on a piece of paper to state if they want Catalunya to be independent or not.
The response from the Spanish state have been extreme. There is virtually a state of emergency although that has not been officially declared. Web sites have been closed down, printed material has been seized. The country has been flooded with police. 700 mayors threatened with arrest for supporting the referendum. Officials have been arrested. Catalan government buildings were entered by police and their web sites closed down. Protestors on the streets have been threatened with arrest for the crime of sedition. (Sedition = conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch)
What else have the Spanish government done?
The finances of the Catalan government were taken over by Madrid. Premises searched, boat-loads of police costing 300,000 euros a day are sitting in Barcelona harbour waiting to be deployed. The Spanish government insists that the referendum is illegal and will be stopped.
And what are Catalan people doing?
Getting on with life and saying calmly and peacefully that they will vote.
Taking part in demonstrations which is the part you may have seen in the news.
Also having what Julian Assange has called the ‘biggest slumber party in the world’ as they spend the weekend in schools and colleges, health centres and old peoples homes. They have organised all sorts of activities, singing, dancing, practising human towers, cooking, playing games, making new friends…..all in order to keep places open for the vote tomorrow.
Or should I say ‘today’? I am writing this in the early hours of October 1st and thinking about all the people – ordinary citizens of all ages – who are so determined to vote that they are willing to camp out this weekend, facing who knows what tomorrow. Whether they vote yes or no – whether they want to be independent or not – they are taking part in a massive public show of strength and courage – to defend the democracy they believe in from the extremely authoritarian power of the state of Spain.
Isn’t that worth supporting?
If this can happen here, it really can happen anywhere. It’s easy to think ‘I won’t bother to vote’ until someone tells you that you can’t. It is a right that has been fought for over the ages and must mean a lot if a state like Spain tries so hard to stop it.
So we had better believe it is worth supporting these people as they call for the freedom to vote.
Tomorrow – we will see what happens. Please do keep watching!
And if you are in the Labour party in the UK can you ask Jeremy Corbyn why he is so quiet about the threats to democracy in Catalunya? And the EU – will they speak out?
Photographs of students demonstrating in support of the referendum in Barcelona. Thanks to a friend who sent them to me – will add his name shortly.