Catalan political prisoners, anti-mass demonstrations police violence

This 15 October 2019 video says about itself:

Clashes between Catalan pro-independence protesters and police continue at Barcelona airport

A protester who lost his eye in clashes outside Barcelona’s airport was among the injured overnight Monday into Tuesday, as tensions erupted over the convictions of Catalan separatist leaders.

He was among 170 who were injured in the clashes … between angry protesters and riot police at Barcelona’s international airport and elsewhere across the north-eastern Spanish region. ..

In a landmark ruling Monday, Spain’s Supreme Court acquitted the Catalan politicians and activists from the more serious crime of rebellion for pushing ahead with a banned referendum on Oct. 1, 2017, and declaring independence based on its results.

But judges found nine of them guilty of sedition and handed down prison terms of nine to 13 years.

Four of them were additionally convicted of misuse of public funds and three were fined for disobedience.

By Alejandro López and Alex Lantier:

Spanish government threatens broader crackdown as mass protests escalate in Catalonia

17 October 2019

Mass protests and street fighting erupted in cities across Catalonia for a third night running yesterday, as police attacked workers and youth protesting the fraudulent conviction of 12 Catalan nationalist leaders after a show trial over their role in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum. Highways and train lines are blockaded, universities occupied, Barcelona’s key avenues blocked, and thousands demonstrated in cities across the region amid tense stand-offs with police.

Police are using escalating violence as protests continue against the ruling. On Monday, 121 people were injured of which 24 were hospitalised. One young protester lost his eye due to the impact of a rubber bullet, a weapon banned for the region’s police. Tuesday resulted in 51 arrests and left 125 people injured … according to Catalan health services.

Last night, Spanish … police in Barcelona again violently attacked a protest that they estimated at 40,000 people, primarily youth reported to be members of the Catalan-nationalist Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) coalition. BBC correspondent Jean Mackenzie tweeted: “Just watched rows of police run up the main parade in Barcelona shooting rubber bullets into crowds of people at a candle vigil for the Catalan prisoners. Turned the situation into a scary and violent one instantly. Now thousands running from the police in every direction.”

Protesters lit fires, and violent clashes continued throughout the evening in Catalonia’s largest city. Late last night, Barcelona mayor Ana Colau reported that there were over 40 ongoing fires blockading roads or burning cars. Protesters jeered Spanish police … as they abandoned their positions on the Gran Via and fled.

Protests of hundreds to several thousand people took place in towns and cities around Catalonia, including Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, Vic, Tortosa, Terrassa, Puigcerdà, Mataró and Igualada. …

Significantly, protests in Spain extended outside of Catalonia yesterday. Thousands attended a protest on Madrid’s Plaza del Sol, holding banners defending the Catalan nationalists’ right to hold an independence referendum and shouting “Liberty for political prisoners”, “Madrid with the Catalan people,” and “Yes to the right to decide.” A group of neo-Nazis who had reportedly hidden in nearby streets attacked groups of protesters around the Plaza del Sol rally.

This 17 October 2019 video says about itself:

Spain: Clashes erupt between police and supporters of jailed Catalan leaders in Madrid

Violence broke out between riot police and protesters rallying in support of jailed Catalan leaders in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol on Wednesday.

Footage shows demonstrators blocking streets and highways, and fleeing police armed with batons.

The Alejandro López and Alex Lantier article continues:

Yesterday, tens of thousands participated in the five different three-day “Marches for Freedom” started on Catalonia’s roads called by the ANC and Òmnium Cultural. The different columns are set to converge on Friday afternoon in Barcelona, where they aim to join the demonstration convened by the pro-secessionist trade union Intersindical as part of a one-day general strike to protest the court verdicts.

Sections of the trade union bureaucracy in Catalonia, aware of growing anger among workers at the authoritarian ruling against the Catalan nationalists, have felt compelled to call protests.

On Tuesday, amid growing anger among Barcelona dockworkers, the Union of Docks of the Barcelona Ports Tweeted: “we have decided to support next Friday’s defence of labour and democratic rights of all citizens of Catalonia. … We will protest against labor reforms but also against the Supreme Court verdict.” It concluded that it was striking not “because we are secessionists, since we are a plural union that contains all political ideologies, but we see that there is a violation of civil rights and this verdict does not help resolve the conflict.”

The Sánchez government is escalating its police crackdown, working closely with the rest of the political establishment. The Interior Ministry has announced it will send 1,100 more Guardia Civil officers, adding to the 2000 Civil Guard and National Police officers already present. The Ministry has said that they will stay there at least for another month. The Ministry has also announced they are investigating Tsunami Democratic, an app which is allegedly co-ordinating protesters’ actions.

After meeting with the leaders of Spain’s main parliamentary parties, Sánchez warned that he does not rule out “any scenario”, including the invoking the National Security Law to control the region’s police or Article 155 to remove the democratically elected Catalan government. He added, “everything is planned and we will act, if necessary, from firmness, proportionality and unity.”

The far-right Vox party is calling on the [governing] PSOE to invoke article 116 of the constitution. This would mean the imposition of a state of emergency, martial law and the deployment of soldiers across Catalonia.

This 14 October 2019 video says about itself:

Thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona and other parts of Spain after the country’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in a failed independence bid in 2017. In Barcelona, three main streets were blocked by protesters holding signs calling for “Freedom for political prisoners” as they said the sentence was “completely unfair.” Protesters blocked train and metro access to Barcelona airport and others temporarily halted traffic on several roads across Catalonia.

By Alex Lantier:

The jailing of Catalan nationalists: Spanish government builds a police state

17 October 2019

Madrid’s sentencing of a dozen Catalan nationalists Monday to a decade in jail for sedition, followed by threats to impose a state of emergency on Catalonia after a police crackdown on mass protests, marks a major step towards dictatorship, not only in Spain but across Europe. The ruling on Monday is an infamous and illegitimate verdict by a court that is discredited by its recent statements of support for fascist rule.

The defendants, led by former Catalan regional vice-premier Oriol Junqueras, called for peaceful protests leading up to a peaceful Catalan independence referendum on October 1, 2017. Spanish paramilitary police mounted a violent crackdown on voters in that referendum, wounding over 1,000 people as voters responded to police beatings at polling stations with mass civil disobedience.

Turning reality on its head, the court claimed that this constituted not illegitimate state violence against the population, but a violent popular uprising against a legitimate state authority—and that Junqueras and others were therefore guilty of sedition for inciting it.

Amid growing calls for a general strike, a confrontation is brewing between the working class and the police state that is emerging in Spain and across Europe.

After protests again broke out Tuesday night in Barcelona against the jail sentences, Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared that he “ruled out no scenario” for his government’s response, as he met leaders of Spain’s major parliamentary parties. Led by the newly formed, fascistic Vox party, these parties are issuing various demands: to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution to suspend the elected Catalan regional government, or to mobilize of the army.

It is an elementary task posed to workers across Spain and internationally to demand the liberation of the Catalan nationalist political prisoners and defend workers and youth in Catalonia against the threat of military repression and authoritarian rule from Madrid.

Advancing the demand to free Catalan nationalist prisoners does not imply any support for their regressive program of dividing the working class in Spain by forming an independent capitalist republic in Catalonia, or for their record of imposing social austerity on Catalan workers. Broad popular distrust of Catalan secessionism in Spain, including among a narrow majority of Catalans, is legitimate and politically justified. But their arrest is an integral part of a fascistic campaign whose principal targets are the Spanish and international working class.

By blaming protesters rather than Spanish police for the crackdown in Catalonia, the Supreme Court ruling hands the state a weapon to eviscerate fundamental democratic rights. If its grotesque and reactionary argument were to become accepted, police would need only break a nightstick over the head of a striker on a picket line, or a student occupying a university, to declare them guilty of violent rebellion against the state and hand them long prison sentences. Constitutionally protected rights to strike and to protest would be a dead letter.

The imprisonment of the Catalan nationalists is inseparably linked to a relentless campaign in the ruling class since the Catalan referendum to promote Vox and rehabilitate fascism. In June, as the Supreme Court was discussing this ruling, it briefly blocked a proposed exhumation of fascist dictator Francisco Franco, arguing that he was the legitimate “head of state from 1 October 1936 until his death in November 1975.” It thus ruled that Franco’s 1 October 1936 self-proclamation as head-of-state, four months after his fascist coup launched the Spanish Civil War, was legitimate.

The Spanish Civil War devastated cities across Spain and led to the murder of 200,000 left-wing workers and intellectuals and the detention of 400,000 people in concentration camps. Yet the Supreme Court ruled that it would be “extraordinarily harmful” to the public interest if there was not a more positive understanding of “the significance of don Francisco Franco.”

The legitimization of Francoism inevitably sharpens the Spanish state’s conflicts with Catalonia. It must be recalled that after Franco’s victory in the Spanish civil war and the Nazi occupation of France in 1940, the Nazi Gestapo handed over exiled Catalan nationalist leader Lluis Companys for execution by the Spanish fascists.

The EU and all its member states are directly implicated in the plotting of the Spanish ruling class. Junqueras, who was elected to the European Parliament from prison, could claim legal immunity as a euro-deputy. However, when the EU Justice Tribunal scheduled a hearing to determine whether Junqueras would enjoy this immunity, not a single EU member state presented arguments to the court. They all consciously, albeit tacitly, supported the Spanish bourgeoisie’s moves to legitimize fascism and scrap basic democratic rights.

The ruling in Catalonia is only the sharpest expression of the drive to undermine democratic rights and suppress protest across the European Union (EU), amid a resurgence of strikes and political protests against EU policies.

In Britain, the last week has seen the arrest of over 1,600 peaceful climate protesters in London and the Metropolitan Police imposing a citywide ban on demonstrations.

In France, where hated President Emmanuel Macron hailed fascist dictator Philippe Pétain as he launched mass arrests of “yellow vest” protesters against social inequality, police have repeatedly beaten peaceful protesters and then arrested those trying to defend themselves. The case of Christian Dettinger, a former boxer sentenced to 30 months in jail for punching a cop’s riot shield while protecting a female protester, is notorious. This followed two years of a state of emergency under which democratic rights were suspended.

In Germany, the neofascist Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) rise to become the main opposition party, in the face of mass protests, is the most dangerous manifestation of the growth of neofascism in Europe.

Nearly three decades after the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union led bourgeois intellectuals to proclaim the “End of History”, the death of socialism and the eternal triumph of liberal democracy, the ruling classes throughout Europe are once again turning toward dictatorship. …

Workers in Catalonia fighting to defend their social and democratic rights must appeal to their class brothers and sisters throughout Spain, and Europe as a whole, in a common struggle for the socialist transformation of society.

On Thursday, the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that former Catalan deputy regional premier and leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Oriol Junqueras, had had parliamentary immunity from the moment he was elected to the European Parliament last June. Junqueras ran in the election from prison, where he has been held since the police crackdown on the peaceful 2017 Catalan independence referendum: here.

8 thoughts on “Catalan political prisoners, anti-mass demonstrations police violence

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