Photo: Pro-Spainish Unity protestors in front of the HQ of the National Catalan Assembly (Credit: Jordi Borras)
By Gemma Aguilera, El Món
February 8th, 2018
The Spanish state and the judicial apparatus have perverted the rule of law in order to bring democratic and peaceful demands of independentism into supposed criminal disrepute, applying charges such as rebellion and sedition, and at the same time awoken a tumultuous and violent protest movement with punishment as its main aim. Thanks to this perversion, the leaders of the ANC and Òmnium, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, but also counselors Joaquim Forn and Oriol Junqueras, remain jailed. At the same time, the Spanish judicial machinery has also perverted the application of the crime of incitement to hatred. In parallel, Catalan society is now experiencing a wave of violence, unprecedented since the 2017 “Diada” (September 11th, Catalan national day), with acts of vandalism, insults, threats and beatings “with pro-Spanish motivation”. The El Món photojournalist Jordi Borràs, an expert in the extreme right and pro-Spanish groups, presents a detailed document, illustrated with figures and testimonies that the violence against independence has ceased to be the exclusive domain of the extreme right, but also become a tool of more mainstream pro-Spain groups, especially, since the referendum on October 1st of last year.
The photojournalist has documented and verified 139 violent incidents such as aggressions, coercion, violations of private property, vandalism and sexual assault, from September 8th to December 11th, 2017, which were politically motivated to defend the “unity of Spain” – without including the 1,066 wounded by the Spanish police and the Guardia Civil on the referendum day. These 139 are, as he says, “just some of the attacks – many others are not documented because they have not been denounced or their motivation cannot be proven”. After analyzing the cases one by one, Borràs concludes that “although their authors are a small minority among all the people who have expressed themselves in favor of the unity of Spain, the violence has become more transversal and has become more normalized in a large part of the mobilizations of those who oppose independence. Extreme right militants have taken leading roles in a number of incidents, but in many cases, the only common denominator among aggressors is the display of symbols or pro-Spanish slogans.” This analysis is reflected in one of the chapters of the Media.cat Yearbook which was launched this Thursday, which denounces the media silence on the issue – in this case, specifically referring to the media in Madrid.
Photo: Violent incidents are increasingly being reported at pro-Spain manifestations, not just those of the extreme right. (Credit: Jordi Borràs)
The report collected by the Media.cat Yearbook also warns of the role of the media based in Madrid, who have silenced reporting of these violent acts and that, in addition, according to Borràs, they have legitimized the violence by covering the “A por ellos” phenomenon positively. In declarations in El Món, the photojournalist believes that “the fact that there is a double standard about the coverage of violence or hate crimes ends up legitimizing violent sectors of the pro-Spain movement, and encouraging them to commit crimes such as aggression, threats and coercion, because the legal, media and police focus is looking away, at the other side, at the pro-independence movement.” Thus, he adds, “whilst we see a mechanic, a teacher, or a man with a clown’s nose taken to the courts accused of very serious crimes [for statements made about independence], dozens of aggressions that have occurred during the autumn have gone totally unpunished.”
Borràs argues that the police violence of October 1st has in a sense kicked off a wave of violent acts. Of the 139 acts documented by the author, 80 occurred this month alone. “The State’s discourse regarding the legitimacy of violence to repress the referendum has translated into the street with violence against independentists and supporters of the referendum, by citizens and protesters who feel legitimized to attack, incriminate or threaten those who do not think like them”. In Borràs’s opinion, this situation creates “helplessness in the victims”, but also sends a message to the whole group of independentists: “You can be attacked for your way of thinking and also, legally you will not get the same treatment if you think otherwise.”
Photo: The extreme right has lost its monopoly on violence against independentism (Credit: Jordi Borras)
In his analysis of the increase in violent acts, Borràs also concludes that “the climate of tension and violence against independentism, and against those who are in favour of the right to self-determination, has generated a wave of ‘Catalanophobia” and anti-Catalanism which has grown and spread far outside of Catalonia”.