Catalonia and Spain
The October 1 referendum and its aftermath
By chance, I ended up in Barcelona the same weekend Catalans were voting on an independence referendum.
Half the city seemed not at all interested in the political events of the weekend. Or, as proved true this week, they were interested but decided not to participate.
This is the half of the city that favors continued union with Spain.
However, as Saturday night passed to the drizzling rain of Sunday morning, over 2 million Catalans gathered to participate in a vote the Spanish government deemed illegal and which did everything in its power to stop.
As the local Catalan police stood aside, as school officials allowed their schools to be used for voting, as ballot boxes and ballots were stashed in hiding places, and as people barricaded the doors against the national police and Guardia Civil, people voted.
As the day wore on, the news and social media filled with images of the national police and Guardia Civil dragging people out of polling places by their hair, throwing voters to the ground, beating them with truncheons — all to prevent them, and to intimidate others, from taking part in the vote.
On Monday night, I came across a protest outside the local Guardia Civil station. It was a protest against police violence, of tactics that reminded many of the Franco era. As the protesters taunted with chants of “Fills de feixistes!” independence took on a particular focus, independence from a repressive strain of Spanish national politics seen in the current Spanish government.
As I write this, the outcome remains very uncertain. I’m hopeful that there will be negotiations but as of yet, there is no sign of talks. A unilateral declaration of independence, followed by Spain sending in the national police and the Guardia Civil and taking over Catalan government institutions would be a very dangerous outcome.