Hello everyone, this is Michael Owergreen and Russian Accent, thank you for being with us and today we are going to talk about the referendum in Catalonia. As usual, we take it from the media: Police trying to shut down a banned independence referendum in Catalonia have fired rubber bullets at protesters in Barcelona.
Thousands of officers are deployed across the region with orders to seize ballot boxes. Spanish police have fired rubber bullets at protesters outside a polling station to try to stop voting in the referendum, with more than 460 people reported injured in the melee. Some of the demonstrators there had barred police from leaving a polling station with voting material. That’s how European democracy flourishes in Spain and in the European Union in general.
Police smashed their way into polling stations in Catalonia, with the Spanish government insisting that the vote is illegal. Madrid says most of the 2,315 polling stations in the region have been closed. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria claims police have intervened with “firmness and proportionality.”
What does this “firmness and proportionality” look like? Let’s take a look at some pictures. I would not call that firmness, and it is not even close to proportionality. For me it looks like citizens were beaten simply because they tried to vote, even though this is a guaranteed constitutional right in the European Union.
Nevertheless, the attempt to exercise their right to vote was severely compromised by the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, and this is a reason for further action against him. His declaration of the illegality of the referendum in Catalonia will not be supported by EU bureaucracy – they don’t want to go against the citizens of the EU and Spain.
A group of judges in Catalonia has opened an investigation into the actions of the Mossos d’Esquadra for not stopping the election, but for the police in Barcelona this would be an impossible action. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano says rule of law has prevailed in Catalonia, given that courts had blocked the referendum.
“Today there has not been a self-determination referendum in Catalonia. The rule of law remains in force with all its strength,” Rajoy said in a televised address. This is not an issue, because mister Rajoy should worry about his future. He has committed bloody attacks against his own citizens. At best for him, it would be an extraordinary election, but in the worst case scenario, Mariano Rajoy will go to jail.
However, images of police brutality against Catalans “are clearly images that no democrat can approve,” says opposition leader Pedro Sanchez, blaming both Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan secessionists for the crisis, saying both their policies have failed “in the worst possible way.”
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau is demanding that Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy resign after Spanish riot police were seen beating and kicking people as part of efforts to shut down the vote. It seems obvious to me that Mariano Rajoy should resign.’
Ada Colau told broadcaster TV3 that “Rajoy has been a coward, hiding behind the prosecutors and courts. Today he crossed all the red lines with the police actions against normal people, old people, families who were defending their fundamental rights.”
Police union for the regional Catalan Mossos d’Esquadro says it deeply regrets that many people were injured as a result of police intervention. “As a modern and democratic police force, we do not understand any action that is not governed by sense, opportunity and proportionality, since the ultimate goal must always be the maintenance of peace and coexistence.” Those officers seen firing rubber bullets in the street were from the National Police, not the Mossos. So in a future court case against mister Rajoy, there are plenty of professional eyewitnesses.
This is not only or primarily a threat to Spain, but also to the whole EU. Not all European countries are on the right side and accept a referendum, and first among them is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She spoke against the referendum when it was held, which of course violated the unwritten rule of not interfering in the elections of other countries, although she herself undoubtedly demanded that nobody interfere in the elections in Germany.
“Finally, when they saw that the people had no intention of leaving, the officers started to charge with the batons,” said one of the eyewitnesses. “They took personal objects off us to get us to move; bags, wallets. They broke my glasses. It was a deplorable scene. My brother ended up going to a hospital.”
But the most interesting details of this case began when the United Kingdom got involved. British Trade Minister Liam Fox condemns the violence in Catalonia, but says the referendum is a matter for the Spanish government. But from what we’ve seen so far, this is not the end of the story. We will probably see more in Brussels, very soon.