On September 20, 2017, at 1.30pm, a dozen of police officers from the National Police Force (CNP) appeared at the headquarters of the Candidacy of Popular Unity (CUP) in Barcelona.
At the very first moment, the police officers proceeded to seize material for campaigning in the forthcoming referendum that some members of the CUP were carrying into a vehicle in front of the headquarters. No judicial or official document was showed to the CUP members present at the time. This omission contravenes the regular practices and the most basic provisions of any procedure by a police force. The lack of any document detailing the seized materials is a clear violation in itself. Moreover, this situation prevents the CUP from having any reference of the procedure file in which the operation is being developed. Currently, we do not have any information whether it is an administrative operation under the law of Citizen Security or one under the instructions of a judge and thus under a criminal investigation.
Following, this first patrol of CNP tried to access the CUP headquarters. The workers and members present inside the office, demanded the judicial order justifying their entrance to the headquarters of a political organization. Neither then nor in any other moment during all the afternoon, any judicial order was shown by the members of the CNP. Shortly after, supporters, members and citizens reacted to the news and appeared there. Seeing this, the CNP shifted its agents to both sides of the street and anti-riots patrols from the CNP arrived to support the patrol. Policemen surrounded the HQ’s and demonstrators from 2 to 8pm. The Catalan Police, Mossos d’Esquadra, supported the CNP’s operation in terms of traffic and citizen security.
During all the afternoon, crowds of people arrived at the CUP HQ’s to give support and show their solidarity. The result were more than 2000 people not allowing police patrols to access the entrance. At all times, people’s attitude was to resist in a non-violent way, and there was no incident caused by the attendants.
During the six hours police siege, representatives of the CUP first, and later the legal team – which included members of the Defense Commission of the Board of lawyers of Barcelona (ICAB), the president of the Catalan Institute of Human Rights, CUP MP’s, and the Deputy Mayor of Human Rights of the Council of Barcelona – tried to obtain some information of the aims, motivation and length of the police operation. The stakeholders of the Catalan police forces (CME) were providing assistance functions to the Spanish police forces (CNP). The commands of CNP rejected to approach or speak to any citizen or member of the legal team. At 8pm, the operation was cancelled and the police forces left the place. However, the CNP shot three times the foam guns against protesters while leaving.
For the above mentioned facts, we consider that:
- Wednesday’s police operation challenges the current Spanish civil rights system. When police officers attempt to enter the HQs of a political organisation – either with judicial authorisation or without authorisation – it represents an attack to political freedom. As it seems obvious, political organisations are a keystone of any democratic system. Secondly, it is an attack to all its members when the siege by the police lasts six hours without any explanation or justification. Thirdly, it was preceded by a seize of political material (leaflets, pamphlets, posters). This act of censorship violates basic rights without legal protection when the material is seized without documenting it to those interested. This behaviour is not acceptable under any circumstance in a democratic society by a public authority. Fourthly, it is an abnormal democratic situation when civil servants reject to give information to any citizen or to a legal team like this particular one. Finally, the use of weapons like foam guns is forbidden in Catalonia since 2014.
Therefore, we denounce that Wednesday’s operation at the CUP headquarters was developed in a scheme of no rights. That is, the lack of any basic rights clearly shapes the concept of state of exception as it is regulated in the Spanish legal system. In parallel to this police operation, another security force, the paramilitary police force (Guardia Civil), arrested 12 members of the Catalan Government, registering several buildings of the Catalan Government, private companies and residences. These actions produced an atmosphere of an extended state of exception around Barcelona city, but also in other Catalan cities.
These actions can be understood within a wider frame of strategy of persecution and police mobbing in Catalonia. Only this past year, several CUP public representatives have been detained because of their defence of the referendum (Montse Venturós in the municipality of Berga and Joan Coma in the municipality of Vic). Further, activists defending freedom of expression have also been detained (“No King No Fear” campaign and other activists because of their protests in front of the Conservative Party headquarters, PP).
Països Catalans, 22 September 2017