Tens of thousands of people – 44,000 according to the GARA count – manifested yesterday in Bilbao responding to the call of political, civil and workers’ union organisations, against the application in Catalonia of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, in support of the right to decide, and democracy. In spite of the heavy downpour and without the participation of the PNV (Basque National Party), the figures of those attending the marches called by Gure Esku Dago were surpassed, with 32,000 and 31,000 in the demonstrations on September 16th and 30th, respectively.
The march started just after 5pm, led by a banner with the slogan “Against 155 / Democracy and Right to Decide” in Basque and Spanish, carried by representatives of the convening organizations, followed by thousands and thousands of people who were chanting slogans such as “Independentzia” (independence), ”Catalunya aurrera” (Catalonia forward) and others demanding the freedom of the members of the Catalan Government and imprisoned social activists and a response to the demands of the Catalan people
The march proceeded loudly along Autonomía Street, while people attempted to wave the numerous esteladas (flags of Catalan independence) and ikurriñas (Basque flags) despite the rain soaking them. Many familiar faces of the political, social and trade union scenes participated among the thousands and thousands of people to whom the repressive attacks of the Spanish State against Catalan institutions and civil society were reprehensible, and deserved to be protested against in the street.
After more than an hour, the manifestation, in a heavy downpour, reached the steps of the Bilbao Consistory (Church Council) building whilst the tail of the march was still in Enrique Eguren Street, about halfway down Autonomía Street. When the presenter referred to the emprisoned government officials and activists, their words were met with cheers, cries of support, and applause.
Then singer and presenter Zuriñe Hidalgo and Ramón Zallo, professor of the UPV-EHU (University of the Basque Country), took the floor, and in Basque and Spanish, read a manifesto in which the organizers of the march first showed their solidarity with the citizenry of Catalonia and committed themselves “to face down the authoritarian and undemocratic drift of the PP-PSOE-Ciutadanos agreement,” upon understanding that the application of Article 155 represents “a critical inflection point, of historical dimensions”.
They asserted that these three Spanish party-political forces have proposed “to destroy any hint of democracy, first in Catalonia and then in any territory and against any people that do not accept the monarchical and supposedly-indissoluble principles of the unified Nation State which they impose. It is no coincidence that leaders of the PP have threatened to use article 155 in other places”, they warned.
They enumerated the consequences of the application of 155 and the steps taken from the judiciary against democratically elected political officers and institutions. “This repressive escalation is not confined to the framework of Catalonia, but will mean a reduction of democratic freedoms throughout the State. And Euskal Herria (The Basque Country) will also be subject to aggressions” they foresee. “This directly affects the open debate to renew our political status. The improvement of self-government is what one judges a State by”, they denounced.
For this reason, they affirmed that “in the face of decisions of an anti-democratic State, it is unacceptable to maintain, in Catalonia or in The Basque Country, any institutional normality and political agreements of the first order” with PP, PSOE and Ciutadanos. “The exceptional measures of article 155 presuppose a direct attack on democracy and the right to decide that it can not be allowed to live without a proportional answer from within Basque politics”.
They repeated their commitment to “preventing the degradation of democracy” and to defend civil and political rights. Within this framework, they claimed the right to decide both in Catalonia and in the territories of the Basque Country. “The origin of the problem is precisely there, in the radical refusal on the part of the State to give a democratic inch to that right. Neither the Spanish State, nor the PP, the PSOE and Ciutadanos accept it, “they underlined.
“We defend that we are our own and legitimized political entity, whose only limit must be the democratic mandate of the Basque citizenry,” they said before the assembled.
Quotes from notable attendees on the day:
«It is necessary that the Basques take the street and build a popular democratic wall»
– ARNALDO OTEGI (EH Bildu)
«There are no legal reasons to impute crimes of rebellion and sedition»
– ZELAI NIKOLAS (Gure Esku Dago)
«You cannot govern with who defends the 155 and puts our friends in jail»
– TXIKI MUÑOZ (ELA)
«The PNV has decided not to participate [in this march]: they will have to give his explanations »
– GARBIÑE ARANBURU (LAB)
Original Text: http://www.naiz.eus/eu/hemeroteca/gara/editions/2017-11-05/hemeroteca_articles/44-000-voces-claman-en-bilbo-por-el-derecho-a-decidir-y-la-democracia