Spanish police attack peaceful protesters in Catalonia…

How should the Spanish government have handled the Catalan independence referendum?

Option A: Do nothing. Let it go ahead and when the result is announced condemn it as meaningless and undemocratic. The world’s media would give it a passing tweet at most.

Option B: Go heavy-handed. Send in police to smash up printing presses, seizing posters and ballots. Send hundreds of police to storm polling centres attacking and terrorising women and children. Attack peaceful protestors in the streets with their hands literally in the air. All while leaving nearly a thousand people injured so far.

It seems completely incredulous that a modern European democracy would go for option B but that is what they have done and all under the glare of social media. As we know from Northern Ireland, when the state gives a violent response to democratic demands it does not end well. All today’s events will do is further boost the cause of Catalan independence. Any wavering voters will be so horrified at the attacks on their fellow citizens that they will flock to the independence side.

Police attacking firefighters, people in wheelchairs, pensioners with their hands in the air. The world is watching and is rightly horrified at the scenes. Emotions are running high and I just hope that no one is killed tonight.

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  • technopolitics

    Rajoy lost this one weeks, or even months ago. There was no winning today, it was about degrees of losing. The next few days are extremely important for Europe. The EU survived – not unscathed – from the appalling treatment of Greece; doubling down and abandoning the people of Catalonia to the whims of Madrid may stretch them too far. I’ve no doubt the EU parliament will want to send a message supporting Catalonia pretty quickly.

    That’s all to say nothing of the hideous fascist optics of the whole thing.

  • hugh mccloy

    Bit rough, as you say vote was not binding could probably be gone in a fleeting glance with the way the world turns.

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade

    A ridiculous reaction from the Spanish government and it has done them no favours whatsoever. Option A was, of course, the way to go.

  • britbob

    Interesting point – In a recent ruling on the hypothetical secession of Bavaria, for example, the German Constitutional Court indicated that the federal states are not sovereign but fall within the Federal Republic of Germany where questions of national sovereignty lie with all German people.

  • WindsorRocker

    The United States is the same. No state is allowed to unilaterally secede.

  • WindsorRocker

    The problem with Option A was that no intervention would have given de facto legitimacy to the vote with the Generalitat preparing to declare UDI in the event of a majority regardless of the turnout.

    So weighing on the Spanish state’s mind was the spectre that whilst they might want to ignore a Yes vote on an inadequate turnout that Puigdemont and the separatists would not and then the likes of the Mossos would be acting on behalf (in their minds) of a sovereign nation like an Army and that would have made some truncheon bashing of rose holding protesters look like chicken feed

    That said, their method of intervention was uncontrolled and they could have been more restrained. Simply sealing off the high profiling polling stations, let no one in and confiscate the ballots boxes as they leave.

    The Catalan Generalitat clearly have some responsibility though for duping the locals into taking part in an illegal referendum that was in breach of the law, like it was some sort of joyous civic exercise.

  • WindsorRocker

    “abandoning the people of Catalonia”, you mean the 48% who voted for the governing parties?

  • William Kinmont

    Many of us who voted remain probably had in or hearts and head that the the EU stood for the opposite of all this a protectorate of liberal values and freedoms . It seems it is not . Will a more federal future EU send federal police into countries to deal with these situations.
    Will the EU stand up for its citizens rights or it’s own beurocratic self interests.
    A Spain without catalonia is bankrupt and so too possibly the EU morally if it sides with Spain.

  • William Kinmont

    Constitutional interests are going to be vested interests.These issues should supercede constitutional parlament or courts. Democracy is always perverted in some way by media or money but state police beating up ordinary citizens peacefully voting in the EU is terrifying.

  • DP Moran

    It’s a matter for the Spanish people alone as far as I’m concerned, no point in liberal virtue signalling from the sidelines and thats not mentioning the hypocrisy of the British hitting out while they continue to occupy a part of Spain.

  • hgreen

    The Spanish police doing a great job of building support for independence.

  • William Kinmont

    Are you saying that the people of an area’s views are what counts if the area is Spain but not if it is Gibraltar or Catalonia?
    UK and Spain can express opinion and try to influence but state force to prevent voters?

  • Nordie Northsider

    Oh, where to start? The British most certainly have not ‘hit out’. Here’s what the Foreign Office had to say: “The referendum is a matter for the Spanish government and people. We want to see Spanish law and the Spanish constitution respected and the rule of law upheld. Spain is a close ally and a good friend, whose strength and unity matters to us.” Jeremy Corbin might be said to have ‘hit out’, but, you see, he’s not in power.

    If it’s virtue signalling to flinch at nearly 1,000 civilians being injured by police, then sign me up for the virtue-signalling masterclass.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/catalonia-independence-referendum-jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may-violence-intervention-mariano-rajoy-a7976976.html

  • DP Moran

    The “people” of Gibraltar are Maltese colonists brought in by the British to strenthen their control over the rock. If the British really cared what the people had of Gibraltar had to say then they wouldn’t have expelled them once they occupied the territory.

  • Ivor Nadir

    The fact that it may be so doesn’t make it right. Obviously states/regions/nations have the right to secede. Obviously larger states will use a range of means to try to prevent them, including force and the law, often in combination. Twas ever thus.

  • William Kinmont

    If the EU can stand back and say it won’t interfere then it can leave Ireland to decide it’s own rules in the border or lack of it between its citizens.

  • William Kinmont

    The people who live there in the here and now have no say in its future and it’s effects on them? Because of History

  • Superfluous

    I think the EU has a remit in managing trade from outside its own borders. It does not have a remit to interfere in the internal politics of a member state, outside of what is dictated in mutually agreed EU law.

  • lizmcneill

    So descendants of Scots and English planters shouldn’t get a say in the self-determination of NI because they were settled by the British?

  • Superfluous

    hmmm – because the EU set a precedent when it became so heavily involved in the Northern Irish conflict..?

    It’s amazing how many people I’ve seen today comment about the EU as if it actually had any power to intervene in the internal affairs of a member state. The Troika handled Greece, not the EU by itself – the people of Greece had full control to tell the Troika that they did not want the bail outs they were offering under the terms they had set. As soon as the Government of Greece invited the Troika in and took their money they were bound to the terms of the deal (or to a default on that deal). The Government of Greece would not have taken the deal if it thought it had a better option (presumably). The Government of Greece could have defaulted on the loans and took back full fiscal control whenever they wanted.

    The EU parliament will probably not send a message supporting Catalonia, because it’s not the remit of the EU parliament to get involved. Just like they never got involved at any high level in the Northern Irish dispute.

    P.S. I hope Catalonia gets its independence.

  • tenleftfingers

    When SOT tweeted the image above, the comments were quick to point out that the image was several years old. If that’s the case you should mention in the article that this is an old picture, showing that this isn’t the first time Catalonians have experienced this kind of oppression. https://twitter.com/SluggerOToole/status/914573652213059584

  • William Kinmont

    It has alot of agreements protecting citizens rights.

  • William Kinmont

    Greece was going to have a referendum on defaulting then the EU had a word and the referendum was stopped.

  • William Kinmont

    So Britain treating people badly is bad , Spain trading people badly justified because Britain did a bad thing some time in the past.

  • William Kinmont

    If it has no remit interfering with where Spain’s borders are then it has no remit in ours. The concept of the EU has to be shakey if it’s borders are beginning to unravel and it cannot offer protection to its citizens. What is it for. It may be able to make states obey rules on slurry storage or the power of kettles but if it can’t stop a state from heading up its elderly citizens and fire brigade?

  • Abucs

    If the state is seriously challenged, ‘modern European democracy’ or not, it will invariably use force.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    S.S. M.D’E!!
    S.S. M.D’E!!

  • Roger

    I haven’t read up on that. I’m not sure I understand exactly what the position in Germany is. It sounds like you are saying the German CC decided that a Land cannot secede from the Federation without the consent of the institutions of the FRG? Sounds v similar to Spanish take, though Spanish take may be a bit harder. As in no institutions may permit secession.

    Is that description of the German position right?

  • Roger

    Nothing obvious about it!
    It’s not a right recognized in international law either.

  • Roger

    Though I appreciate your points in 1, 2 and 4, your para 3 sounds a little to simplistic to me. Do you think the secessionists would peaceably handed over the ballot boxes? Do you think crowds would not have interacted with police around sealed off polling stations? Your suggestion in para 3 would have still seen enough violence to make footage for CNN and Sky News and the like. That’s enough violence to end up in the same spot.

  • Roger

    Thankfully…imagine if the state didn’t. How many states would survive and what kind of a mess would citizens be in? Just think of the challenges the nascent Irish Free State faced and how successfully force saw off the challenge. In the view of most of its inhabitants today, for the better good of the masses….

  • Roger

    Absolutely, it’s a question of their on legal order.

  • Roger

    Not at all; there is nothing morally bankrupt in respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a member state. Nor is supporting irresponsible secessionists by any means the clear moral thing to do….Let’s not go back to rule of the jungle.

  • Roger

    While I don’t think Brits on the Gibraltar peninsula have any right to be separate from Spain, the same logic goes for bits of Morocco that Spain jealously retains.

  • mickfealty

    This was posted on Twitter about a week before…

    https://goo.gl/CWVtU7

  • William Kinmont

    EU dosent need to be involved with sovereignty it does need to protect its citizens from attack and it does need to support democracy

  • Barneyt

    I believe Texas perhaps has that right?

  • the rich get richer

    Who would want to be in a Union with that Spanish Government .

    The Catalonians know now some of what they want to gain Independence from .

    The Eu is a shambles and Britain made the right decision to leave . Who would want to be in a union such as the Eu with that Spanish government .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Fully concur, having been at the hard end of such action here in the 1968-70 period. It does not end well.

    However, my old A Level History Master used to have a line about the inevitable victory of Free thought over force. “But you must remember the Spanish Inquisition……how many Protestants do you meet in Spain today ! (1960s, just for the record). Spain has a track record on stifling dissent over a few centuries, Franco simply being the most recent expression of this.

  • Zorin001

    Option B was so wrong headed and counter-productive i’ve begun to wonder if Rajoy is not some sort of deep-cover Catalonian double agent.

    I’ll be interested to see if we can get some sort of reliable turnout figure. I know the Catalonian Regional Government has said 90% Yes on a 43% turnout, which if true is double on previous turnout (thats from memory though so may be wrong). I’d want to see that independently verified though.

    Madrid have given a political master-class in turning a drama into a crisis however.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The only critique I’d have would be the visor of the cap shielding the RUC fellow’s eyes! They were too concerned about watching everything going on around them for danger to indulge in the real SS horizontal visor image!!!!!

  • james

    A ridiculous reaction to a ridiculous action.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    That image first appears as Barcelona, May 2011 as part of the police action to clear space for Bacca football club. It took place off the Rambla de Catalunya.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/14adbeef5ae324d0a1e605615302eb19c69f1d7002fa8841a0f3cf1018af9cc0.png

    For what it’s worth thats a very strange way to hold a baton if you’re going to wallop somebody.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    Cheap shot by Terry – there wasn’t a war going on outside and the RUC, love them or loath them, were trying to deliver a normal policing function as well as staying alive. By this logic we could have all driven about drunk with no tail lights ‘coz the cops were “fighting” a war.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Incoherent. Self-determination good if you’re Catalan, bad if you’re Gibraltarian? What’s the democratic case for forcing Gibraltar into Spain against the wishes of its people?

  • runnymede

    Note the silence from the EU here. Imagine the non-silence if this violence was being perpetrated by a non-compliant member like Hungary or Poland. Or the UK…

  • runnymede

    Their right is enshrined in an international treaty that Spain signed in 1713

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That is interesting. Presumably that was a statement of how orderly secession would have to work under German law, i.e. a national mechanism would have to be gone through. However, other forms of secession are possible. Say Bavaria decides to become independent and declares itself such. The test of whether it really is a state or not is not German law – and as a new independent state it could quite logically say it was no longer bound by German law anyway – the test is public international law.

    I just had a quick look at a Chatham House document on this and here’s a bit from an international law academic, Ralph Wilde on this (I count vouch for whether he’s right or not but it’s a starting point):
    “The international law framework determining whether or not a new entity does or does not constitute a state, and whether an existing state no longer exists, can be understood to comprise:
    – Criteria concerned with the practical viability of the state or claimant
    state, such as a permanent population, existing in a defined territory,
    over which there is an effective government operating independently
    from external control, in the sense that it purports to govern the
    people and the territory on the basis that it, and they, constitute an
    independent state …
    – Criteria concerned with certain policy objectives, such as self-determination and the use of military force, and/or operating on the
    basis of UN Security Council determinations. The effect of these
    criteria is potentially to alter an outcome that would otherwise be the
    case, were issues of practical viability the sole consideration.
    As for self-determination, if the claimant state constitutes a self-determination unit (SDU) —an entity that has a lawful right to external self-determination—then it may be regarded to lawfully constitute a state even if in some respects its conformity to the viability criteria is somewhat deficient.”
    https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/Meeting%20Summary%20Recognition%20of%20States.pdf
    He goes on to talk about the effect of the recognition of the new state by other states – which can make an attempted new state into an actual one, if enough countries back it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    are we undoing the population movements of several hundred years ago now? You may have a job breaking that to the populations of at least two continents.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Were you here in the 1970s Jeremy? If there was not a full scale war of artillery bombardment and infantry manoeuvre there was a lot of street conflict and sudden violence by bomb and bullet. Some of the RUC were struggling to ensure normal policing here and others were working out ways to up their personal overtime with as little exposure to challenging situations as was possible. This is a film, drama, not documentary (a representation of things not the things themselves) but it reflects an aspect of realities in the 1970s….

  • Easóg

    It would have been more sensible to treat the referendum in Spain as the English treated the Scots one. Just ignore the result and refuse a second one.

  • Reader

    WindsorRocker: The United States is the same. No state is allowed to unilaterally secede.
    Hence the American Civil War.

  • Reader

    Jeremy Cooke: That image first appears as Barcelona, May 2011 as part of the police action to clear space for Bacca football club.
    Do you have more detail? I get the impression that means the police officer in the photo was operating on behalf of the local government rather than the national government. But I don’t know of the issues around Bacca.
    [Edit : Well, Google might have helped me more if I had searched for Barca Football Club instead of Bacca Football Club
    “After nearly two weeks of peaceful protests in a youth movement that brought tens of thousands to occupy plazas across Spain, the first violent altercations occurred in the Catalan capital Friday morning.
    The local police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, equipped in anti-riot gear moved in after protesters blocked cleaning trucks attempting to dismantle the encampment that has been in place since the demonstrations started on May 15. “]

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I just wanted the chanting bit so that people would get the reference.
    Ho hum.

  • sparrow

    ‘The problem with Option A was that no intervention would have given de facto legitimacy to the vote with the Generalitat preparing to declare UDI in the event of a majority regardless of the turnout.’
    What the Spanish government could have done was to have extended the referendum to all of Spain and made it legal. They could then have campaigned for a ‘no’ vote without seeming to condone or take part in an unconstitutional poll. That way, they would have had a better chance of securing the support of many wavering Catalans, while if the vote went against them it could have been ‘balanced’ by a huge ‘no’ vote in the rest of Spain.

  • Roger

    Indeed. A treaty like that done on threat of war isn’t something that to me generate moral rights…

  • Roger

    Attack from secessionists undermining Spanish democracy, stability and rule of law. Yes. I suppose there probably some truth in that. The EU may well chose to say something about this attack.

  • Mike the First

    Not according to official US constitutional theory since Lincoln. The US government after all fought a war against the secessionist Texan government to enforce Texas’s place in the Union.

  • Jeremy Cooke
  • William Kinmont

    You can form your opinion as to either holding the referendum was good or bad. If you think attacking elderly people and fire crew all acting peacefully is acceptable I don’t know what to say.

  • William Kinmont

    I am a bit younger than you and watching this from a distance it has gone from concerm to actually frightening what is happening in Europe.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    It’s just a chant that annoys me – if an SS Division had moved into West Belfast then I expect “normal” policing would have been very different.

    It’s part of trying to dignify our past as a war rather than what it was and it trivialises the experience of people who suffered a real war such as the Balkans.

    Never mind – it’s just me being a bit precious.

  • runnymede

    ????

    How did the ‘English’ ‘ignore’ the Scottish referendum result? the result was ‘NO’ to independence, you know. The weirdness of Republican postings on here just gets more and more extreme.

  • notimetoshine

    I do find the surprise and horror from the media quite funny. This is standard Spanish practice, the latest episode in a 600 odd year history of battles between Madrid and the regions. Nothing is more likely to draw a violent response from the Castellanos than uppity regions.

    And of course let us not forget the Guardia Civil. A notorious paramilitary police force, known for their beat first don’t ask questions later style of policing. Not surprised they were front and centre.

  • Neiltoo

    I agree that what is happening in Spain is frightening but what else in Europe are you referring to?

  • William Kinmont

    far right in Germany , even a federal Europe will eventually want to flex its muscles all this turmoil is likely to through up more violence

  • Barneyt

    Fair enough. Clearly the lone star status is historical

  • Barneyt

    As others have suggested they’ve only created division and added to the independent cause. Some might argue that Madrid has jurisdiction and was merely enforcing the law. How damaging can an unofficial poll be if it proceeds unimpeded? Clearly Spain saw it as very threatening however they’ve now ensured the impact is maximises. Thankfully no one died. Had they done so, this could escalate. Let’s hope the Catalans keep their quest peaceful as that is far more effective in this day and age.

  • Mike the First

    I think it’s a bit like Bavaria – it’s called a Free State (not a Land) and its people will tell you it has some special status, but the Federal authorities don’t see it that way.

  • scepticacademic

    Option C: Negotiate with the Catalan regional government over the details of a truly free and fair vote on secession within a reasonable (but not immediate) timescale, vote to be monitored by OSCE observers. From what I’ve read, there was a large majority in Catalonia for having a vote to decide the issue but the polls were showing ‘stay part of Spain’ ahead of ‘independence’. If they’d handled this better, a vote for independence was far from certain. As seen previously in Scotland and Quebec. The incompetence of Madrid/PP has surely tipped the balance in favour of succession or a messy and ongoing dispute.

  • Salmondnet

    And fought an exceptionally bloody war (for the time) to maintain that principle.

  • britbob

    Yes. Here’s a piece from Ban Ki-Moon – “When one speaks of self-determination, certain areas have been recognized by the United Nations as non-autonomous territories. But Catalonia does not fall into this category,” Ban Ki-Moon said in an interview with Spanish newspapers El Pais, El Mundo, ABC and La Vanguardia. (31 Oct 2015)

  • britbob

    Here’s a piece from Ban Ki-Moon and that sort of sums up the UN’s position – “When one speaks of self-determination, certain areas have been recognized by the United Nations as non-autonomous territories. But Catalonia does not fall into this category,” Ban Ki-Moon said in an interview with Spanish newspapers El Pais, El Mundo, ABC and La Vanguardia. (31 Oct 2015)

    He doesn’t mention Kosovo though. When Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 the UN ICJ was asked to determine whether this was a legal act. They determined that it wasn’t an illegal act. The judges sympathized with Kosovo as Serbia had failed to protect its citizens from ethnic cleansing etc. Now most UN member states recognize Kosovo independence.

  • Oggins

    Unfortunately we have seen a lot of violence and a lot comments in Spain, which will only deepen the divide.

    I can only hope this does not progress and grow.

  • james

    Ignore?

    The Scots – wisely –
    voted no to leaving the UK. In what way are you saying the English ‘ignored’ the result.

  • Roger

    Not sure that means much either. Ex SG say a region has not been recognized as something. Does that shed light on what rights it IS recognized as having?

    What areas are recognized as non autonomous? Is he referring to the list of territories awaiting de colonization like Bermuda, Western Sahara etc. About 24 of them last time I looked. Obviously Catalonia wasn’t on list.

  • Stifler’s Mom

    I award you the full 10 balaclavas for your anti English rant. Full marks were achieved by the degree you are from reality by claiming the referendum was ignored. Very amusing!

  • Berlin Calling

    The same treaty that handed Brazil to Portugal?

  • britbob

    He is referring to the UN’s list of territories to be decolonized.

  • Roger

    Kosovo isn’t on that list. But it’s now a member of several UN agencies.

    It’s not a very clear response. Not that I would expect one.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    key thing to remember is international law ultimately bends to reality on the ground – after all international law is ultimately a kind of codification of what states actually do. We could only go so long pretending Taiwan was “China” and the PRC illegitimate for example. And if enough states recognise an independent Catalonia then it’s in business. But will they? EU won’t be keen.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    under the national law, yes. But the breakaway state can say that law does not apply to them, if they are independent. So the question is one of international law really. And a key part of that is whether other countries and international institutions are prepared to regard the area as a self-determinative unit. If so they will probably recognise its independence if its people vote for that. N Ireland is one example of a self-determinative unit.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    ultimately it’s not their call though. If Texas or Bavaria declared themselves no longer subject to US / German law, and achieved international recognition, then US or Germany can well argue the breakaway region has broken national law – but what really can or should they do to enforce such law? Arguably, if it’s clear a region wants to secede, then those areas that want to (if continguous and coherently governable) should be allowed to.

    This was the UK position with the nationalist regions of Ireland after 1918, effectively. The UK argued, like Spain is now, that secession would be unconstitutional. Really they should have accepted the reality of secession earlier.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    having the whole of Spain vote though on Catalan independence would be a breach of Catalonia’s right to self-determination. England, Wales and NI didn’t get to vote in the Scottish indie ref, which is how it should be.

  • Roger

    Well. Mostly true. But not entirely. Taiwan might not be China but it’s hardly a Chinese province but the latter is its description in legal order of UN at least. Not sure international law has bended to reality there.

    Kosovo is still under interim UN administration per UN order too. The reality? A bit different.

  • sparrow

    Catalonia has 4 provinces. Does each of these also have a right to self-determination?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’d say if Catalonia is breaking away, the exact position of the new border should not be taken as something all are stuck with. Its optimal position ought to be worked out through a rational process, to ensure as few people as possible are left on the wrong side.

  • sparrow

    Certainly you’d want the borders to reflect the reality on the ground, but that doesn’t really answer my question. I’m wondering if you’d agree that each of the 4 provinces of catalonia has exactly the same claim to self-determination that catalonia is claiming for itself.

  • britbob

    Serbia has already accused the EU of being two-faced for supporting Kosovo’s independence but not backing Catalonia.

  • PeterOHanrahahanrahan

    Like a low-key version of firing squads after the Easter Rising – galvanising.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t know enough about the demographics and geography on the ground there to be able to answer that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    With Taiwan I was just referring to the fact it was for a long time treated as if it were China proper in the UN. Eventually the reality was accepted. It will almost certainly be the same with Kosovo.

    The UN does not want to encourage endless regional breakaways – recipe for conflict and instability. And of course few current member states are keen to make it easy, as it could happen to them and none can really benefit from it. So the international community tends to out the breaks on these UDIs. However, many member states owe their current status to just that right, which they now seek to deny others. Hypocrisy and Realpolitik abound.

    The principle of regional self-determination though is fundamental to international law, just as an assumption of continuity also is. It’s the rational basis for all international borders being where they are – popular consent on the ground, implied or explicit.