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A stark banner at the front of a 'Free Political Prisoners' mass demonstration in Girona on Friday 23 March

A 'Free Political Prisoners' mass protest in Girona on Friday 23 March. Photo: @ancGirona

Escalating repression by the Spanish state has sparked huge anger and an appetite for militant action, reports Mathew Barton from Tarragona

Tens of thousands flooded into the streets across Catalonia on Friday after the Spanish Supreme Court judge, Pablo Llarena, sent five members or ex-members of the Catalan Parliament into ‘preventive’ imprisonment on Friday 23rd of March.

The five Catalans imprisoned are:

  • Jordi Turull, member of the Catalan Parliament for the centrist ‘Together for Catalonia’ party, and possible candidate to be President of Catalonia, now that the Parliament is in the process of electing a Government after the elections imposed by the Spanish State last December 21st.
  • Raül Romeva, member of the Catalan Parliament for the Republican Left party, and former Deputy in the European Parliament.
  • Carme Forcadell, member, and former Speaker, of the Catalan Parliament, for the Republican Left party.
  • Dolors Bassa, member of the Catalan Parliament, for the Republican Left party.
  • Josep Rull, member of the Catalan Parliament for the ‘Together for Catalonia’ party.

A further politician, Marta Rovira, member of the Catalan Parliament for the Republican Left party, of which she is Secretary General, was also due to be imprisoned on Friday but fled into exile in Switzerland by the morning.

The five imprisoned join the ranks of the ‘two Jordis’ – the respective Presidents of two of the main pro-independence civil organisations, and Oriol Junqueras, candidate for President of Catalonia for the Republican Left party, as well as Joaquim Forn, who was the Catalan Interior Minister who helped to organise last October’s referendum on independence, prohibited by the Spanish State.

These people are charged with the Franco-era crimes of ‘rebellion’ and ‘sedition’, for having organised said referendum, and for various peaceful protests.

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These imprisonments not being sufficient to the increasingly authoritarian Spanish state, European Arrest Warrants have also been issued for the former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four ex-ministers, who are all scattered in exile.  In total 25 former elected Catalan officials are being prosecuted by the Spanish state, which maintains its ‘direct rule’ over the region after obstructing the investiture of at least two Presidential candidates (one in exile, one imprisoned).

After the indefinite detention of the five ministers was announced, multiple protests were held across Catalonia, with major roads being blocked in Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida, Girona, and at the border with the French State, and train tracks occupied in Lleida.

Plans for protest were announced on Thursday by the pro-independence Assemblea Nacional Catalana and other groups in anticipation of the measures.

In both Barcelona and Tarragona, the police cleared the demonstrations by force, using batons and aerial shots with rubber bullets.  This is despite the latter being prohibited (under Catalan law) for use by the ‘Mossos’ – the Catalan police currently under the direct control of the Spanish Government.

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The protests were centred on the ‘Delegaciones del Gobierno’ – the buildings belonging to the Spanish Administration. A lorry with a loudspeaker system and enormous photographs of those imprisoned, led tens of thousands of marchers from the central Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona to the ‘Delegación’, where the protesters chanted ‘Ni un pas enrere’ (not one step backwards) and began demanding a General Strike. When the protesters refused to be moved on by the Mossos, this police force charged them.

Around 10,000 people demonstrated in Girona, various thousands in Tarragona and also in Lleida. In Tarragona in particular, the protesters invaded the A7 highway, and were also charged with extreme force by the Mossos.

Further protests have been planned for the weekend, and the ‘Comitès de Defensa de la República’ (locally organised groups coordinating actions in favour of the implementation of the Catalan Republic) are beginning to prepare the General Strike, whose date and duration are yet to be decided.

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