LUIS CALDEIRO, Journalist
January 15, 2021 – 6:00 am
Since October 14, 2019, a small number of pro-independence activists have claimed the release of politicians imprisoned because of the Procés, cutting down Avenida Meridiana daily. Being such an important artery for the whole city, the protest seriously harms neighbors and merchants (whether pro-independence, constitutionalists or mid-pensioners), causing considerable chaos. But they continue to do their thing: it is very difficult to penetrate in the psyche of someone who shows solidarity towards some prisoners but at the same time an absolute lack of empathy towards his fellow citizens. Of those who protest against what they consider an injustice generating another. Let’s not forget that it is not a one-off cut, but more than a year of cuts.
It can be assumed that they feel legitimized hiding behind the size of their grievance. Legitimated even to harm, to piss (pardon!) the neighbor off. Because their grievance is not just any grievance, like the one you and I may suffer at some point in life. No. Theirs is the grievance, par excellence. The magnitude of it is such that the rest of us should kneel, fall down before it. And of course, it is not enough to protest in a reasonable way, manifesting in such a way that the rest of Humanity can continue with their life normally; that is just what the law prescribes and what the rest of the groups that also feel like victims do. No, sir.
But the distinctive feature of this case is that the Power (call it Quim Torra or Ada Colau), far from putting an end to their abusive way of protesting, applying the law to them in the same way as applied to other groups (with which, by the way, they do not show any kind of consideration), seems to have granted them a “license to cut”. Do not be shy, the Municipal or Autonomous Power come to say, cut what you want, we will look the other way. We have already 300 cuts in the Meridiana, which constitutes the pure and hard expression of two axioms much loved by the Catalan pro-independence movement: “The streets will always be ours” -assiduously chanted in its demonstrations- and “this country will always be ours”, as perpetrated by Ernest Maragall.
Therefore, here there is an element of ostentation, of a primate or a dog that urinates marking territory, if we get eschatological. It is about showing who dominates the public space. Ultimately, it is about showing who the master is. And if this is done in an eminently working-class neighborhood with a Castilian-speaking majority (that is, in front of the population in principle more reluctant to the independence ideology), the better. It matters little that the cuts are made by hardly a soul (twenty or even less). This, far from diminishing the ostentation one iota, increases it: We are few, they come to say, but we are untouchable. We are few but we have a good sponsor behind us, with a great club.
Until last December 9, when an unusual event occurred: the residents of the neighborhood, armed only with the force of their exhaustion, decided to call a protest rally. A purely civic, peaceful act, where it was expressly requested that no party symbols be displayed. Four hundred people attended. And of course, it could not be allowed. A concentration of the opposite sign was counterprogrammed that, obviously, cut the avenue again. And a line of vans of the Mossos d’Esquadra Anti-riot Forces had to be placed in the middle to separate the two. What came later was the symbolic stigmatization, and in some cases media, of the neighborhood protest: The counter-demonstration brandished a huge banner with the slogan “Nou Barris will be the tomb of fascism”, held up by muffled youths, vaguely anti-systemic aesthetics. And together with them, pro-independence retirees believing that they were fighting their last battle against Franco. Fascists? Those fed up but peaceful neighbors, many of a certain age, provided with a saucepan, a whistle? Was a rally without flags, without symbols, without banners, that just held a solitary senyera fascist? Some media, as I say, did the rest: they reported having detected some extreme right-wing element on the spot. Rare that they did not also report the presence of well-known representatives of the non-nationalist left, such as Xavier Marín (ex-leader of the PSC), Vicente Serrano or Félix Pérez Romera. But the shadow of doubt was already sown.
In spite of everything, on December 21 another rally of rejection of the cuts was convened. Life goes on. They will not pass. They will not cut.