State of Independence VII
A further update and set of film images from the ongoing separatist crisis in Catalunya.
On Tuesday, Carles Puigdemont refused to clarify whether or not the Catalan government had declared independence. As a result, the central government in Madrid has started proceedings under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution with the aim of restoring a legally compliant regional government in Catalunya via new elections that will likely take place next January. Until then, Madrid will take direct control over all Catalan government functions and start prosecutions against key government officials and organisations related to the illegal independence movement. This has already sparked mass protests with hundreds of thousands of people in Barcelona – even for the majority who do not support independence, the suspension of autonomous rule is a step too far.
Further protests were also triggered earlier in the week when the judge prosecuting a case against the events of 20th September (State of Independence I) detained without possibility of bail the two leaders of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Òmnium. They are charged with what is called sedition under Spanish law, although the legal meaning is closer to “obstruction of justice”. In this case the two leaders were accused of organising a flash-mob via social media in order to prevent the Guardia Civil from arresting people connected to the organisation of the illegal independence referendum.
Assemblea and Òmnium are the main drivers of the Catalan nationalist propaganda war. The groups have a very strong social media presence, and work actively to portray the Catalan people as a peaceful minority that is oppressed by a fascist Spanish state – the intention being to gain international support for an independent Catalunya.
An example of this is the saturation of social media and press with messaging that is attempting to define the arrested heads of the two organisations as “Political Prisoners”. Such a claim is demonstrably false – these people were not arrested for their political beliefs, but for organising a mass protest with the explicit aim of interfering with a judicial order. There are online videos of the two standing on top of three smashed up police vehicles and using loudhailers to encourage the crowd to continue a siege against the building in which the police officers were trapped.
The exodus of companies from Catalunya continues – at the time of writing more than 900 have already relocated away from the region. Òmnium organised a protest against this, calling for people to withdraw a symbolic 155€ from their bank in a protest designed to create a “mini bank run”. But attacking businesses that are worried about the political instability hardly seems like a sensible strategy if you genuinely want them to stay.
In parallel with this, the protests and political instability continue to damage the tourist industry, with conservative estimates now placing the lost revenue in the region of one billion euros.
It remains very unclear what the Catalan government’s current position is. There will be a plenary session on Monday that may (or may not) clarify what concrete actions will be taken in this unilateral, illegal and undemocratic independence push. The business flight and the long list of major countries who have already stated that they will not recognise an independent Catalunya realistically makes progression with independence impossible. But political rationality are neither Catalunya’s nor Madrid’s strongest asset at the moment.
The photographs here are from a pro-union march in Barcelona. Many of the marchers were using home-made and hand-drawn banners – in stark contrast to the abundant professional pro-independence media supplied by Assemblea/Òmnium. Exactly how Assemblea/Òmnium have been funding their propaganda is likely to be another judicial and political flashpoint in the near future.