Today I am in the Emporda, watching the vote in the referendum while staying with friends about 15 minutes from Figueres.
I drove Pep to the station this morning to catch an early train to Granollers. He voted there but I don’t have a vote so wanted to take a tour of some polling stations here.
Here is the other side to the news of state violence that beat and bullied peaceful voters. This was the atmosphere that I experienced – and it is how it should have stayed if the Military police had not been ordered to intervene.
Figueres – we saw several places early in the morning with queues of people waiting patiently and peacefully to vote. The community actions to keep the voting stations open had worked. Some had not been opened by their directors and some had been closed by the police but in general most places were open and people were gathering first to vote and then to protect those votes in their boxes.
Ordis – a small village of only a few hundred people. As I drove in I noticed a four wheel drive parked near the roundabout. I wasn’t able to confirm this but I imagine this and other similar outposts were to stand guard and give warning should the Spanish police arrive. Outside the church there were tables with food and drink and lots of people were milling about, chatting and laughing……and voting. There were children running through the quiet sunny streets calling ‘Votarem. Votarem.’
We will vote!
Borrassa -I drove about ten minutes away to the next village – much larger but still a small community. There the entrances to the main square were blocked with large hay bales. There were notices on the bales saying “Activities for children. No cars”
There was music and a party atmosphere.
But a party with determination. A party with serious intent. Fun and calm but vigilant.
Two people spoke to me to ask about Zero my border collie. He is a great ice-breaker. We chatted about dogs then I moved on. I am so glad that I speak Catalan. Looking like an obvious outsider felt strange because these voting arrangements were so communal, so familial. And I can see the necessity of caution. Especially given what has happened since.
There were two Mossos – police from the Catalan force. They were standing quietly at the corner of the square and some people came to offer them something to drink and eat.
You can see them in the bottom left of the photo. There was no feeling of threat at all.
Roses is a town on the coast. I went there to see how voting was going on in a touristic area. It was hot and sunny and there were lots of visitors walking along the promenade. Many of them probably didn’t even know there was a referendum. It is the odd thing about tourism – you spend time in a place yet rarely delve beneath the surface of sun and sand and beer.
I felt dislocated and odd. Where were the banners? Where would people be voting?
Deeper into the town I found the Ajuntament – the council offices – acting as a polling station. Again Zero helped me meet people. He attracted a little girl of about three called Valentina and I got chatting with her mother and her friend. Again the relief that I can speak Catalan even when I can’t always understand the answers. They were very emotional about voting and felt strongly that things have to change. Also sad that it has to be done in this cloak and dagger way. They stressed how much this matters to the old people – who have waited all their lives to vote and to have a chance to free Catalunya from the authoritarian rule of Spain.
Again two members of the Catalan police force – the Mossos – were just standing quietly nearby and causing no problems at all.
I was going to take a peaceful walk on the beach after this. In between visits to towns and villages I was listening to the Catalan news on the radio and more and more stories were coming through about attacks on voters by the Spanish police and threats and violence against people of all ages, who were trying to vote and to protect other voters. It was feeling increasingly worrying and intense. Barcelona was being hard hit.
We read of the violence against suffragette women who wanted to vote but listening to what was happening here in Catalunya brought home the huge struggle people have always had in fighting for democracy. It is not given – it is won. And the state often reacts with violence. And others often watch in silence.
At the last moment I took the car into Sant Pere Pescador.
Following the sound of music and voices I found people voting at an old people’s home. There were crowds in the street and at the nearby bar. It was a bit more edgy and tense there but feeling very thirsty I went and ordered a beer and sat beside an older woman who was staring into the distance. Another woman joined us and yet again Zero was the link that allowed us to start talking. By now we knew about the injuries in Barcelona and Lleida. By now we all understood what could happen here – could happen anywhere.
But they told me that they had a leader of the Mossos looking after them and that they didn’t expect trouble from the Guardia Civil – the Spanish police.
I hope they didn’t have any trouble. It is now just after 8pm and there has been a lot of trouble all over Catalunya – all from the military police who were directed by the Spanish government to stop the referendum – whatever it takes. The news is full of blood and baton charges. The Catalan people reacted with courage and songs.
People voting, laughing, eating and drinking with their families and friends. People of all ages. Children and young people. People singing and standing together to protect ballot boxes with only their vulnerable bodies for strength.
I am sad and angry. I am ashamed of the UK government for their refusal to speak out. I am ashamed of the UK Labour party for keeping silent. I am disgusted by the EU for standing by and doing nothing.
But in the end there is one thing for sure – they said they would vote in a referendum on October 1st and in spite of all the threats and violence – that is what Catalans did today.