Joan Tapia 18/2/2021
President of the Editorial Committee of EL PERIÓDICO
Third day of riots in Barcelona /
Freedom of expression and demonstration are essential elements of democratic life, but they are not absolute freedoms if their exercise collides with the freedoms and rights of others. The case of rapper Pablo Hasél is an example of this conflict of freedoms. He has been convicted on charges of insults against the crown and of glorifying terrorism. Statements such as “Patxi Lopez’s car deserves to explode”, in reference to the socialist Lendakari, or “I’m not sorry for your shot in the neck, PP man” cannot generate sympathy among human rights defenders, the first of which is the right to life.
But the concatenation of several sentences has ended up leading Hasél to jail. Yesterday another two-year-old from the Lleida Hearing was known for threatening a witness, after trying to kick him, shouting “you’re a friend of the police, I’ll kill you son of a bitch, I’ll catch you.”
The thesis that possible crimes of opinion do not carry prison sentences but fines and other sanctions seems reasonable and even convenient. The courts must apply the law with proportionality and in this case they are giving a notoriety and publicity to someone who might not have achieved it because of their artistic merits.
That is why it is perfectly legitimate to demand changes in the penal code and to demonstrate in favor of the rapper’s freedom. But the freedom of demonstration has limits since it should not harm the freedom and rights of other citizens.
Use the right of protest and demonstration to practice “extreme violence”, as denounced by the Mossos spokesman, destroying street furniture (which we all pay for), setting up bonfires on the streets of Barcelona’s Eixample, devastating more than forty shops and entities banks, and even robbing a police station of the Mossos, as happened on Tuesday night in Vic, has nothing to do with freedoms, cannot be encouraged and, what is more, the obligation of the police forces is to prevent it.
When the pandemic forces the restriction of individual and assembly (including family) freedoms, a forced closure of many businesses is imposed and there are serious fears about the survival of many companies, serious alterations in the normality of citizens are difficult to justify. One thing is the defense of freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate to show disagreement or protest against the sentences of Pablo Hasél and another very different is the instrumentalization of these rights to alter the normality of the citizen through violence, just what is least convenient Catalonia and Spain at the moment.
It can be understood – it has happened in other countries – that after a year of pandemic and worsening living conditions, there are citizen sectors who want to show their discontent. What is not logical is that government parties – which have to guarantee order – dedicate themselves to encouraging demonstrations that – possibly against the will of many participants – have turned into explosions of violence. That is why it is difficult to understand that the parliamentary spokesman for Podemos has expressed solidarity with the “anti-fascist protesters.”
In addition, the minority violence of the last days contrasts with the civic sense of the voters, the exemplary nature of the constituents of the tables and the normality with which the electoral day passed. On Sunday Catalonia gave a sample of a sensible and mature country that should not be altered.