Joan Tapia 20/2/2021
President of the Editorial Committee of EL PERIÓDICO.
A protester throws an object of street furniture at Catalan Police Mossos d’Esquadra van this Friday in Barcelona. /FERRAN NADEU
In Catalonia there is tension. And society is split in two halves with respect to independence. There was even street violence at the end of 2017 and after the Supreme Court ruling against prominent politicians. They were serious and dangerous moments. But the violence had already disappeared, the recent electoral campaign passed normally, as well as the electoral day in which many voters endured long lines for precautions against the pandemic and the members of the polling stations showed great civility. And the participation, lower than the very high of 2015 and 2017, was despite everything higher than that ratified by the 2006 Statute.
However, the demonstrations for the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasél have ended with serious explosions of violence. Everyone can have their own opinion on Hasél’s attacks on the Crown. More difficult to justify are the repeated expressions “I’m not sorry for your shot in the neck … pepero … socialist … millionaire” or “Patxi López’s car deserves to explode!”. The truth is that the Supreme Court ruled against Hasél and the concatenation of several sentences has ended up taking the rapper to jail.
It is legitimate to demonstrate against the sentences or against his entry into prison. And prestigious jurists reason that crimes of opinion should be punished with sanctions that do not entail imprisonment. What is not admissible is to exploit protest and freedom of demonstration to exercise violence against people and things. Support for Hasél cannot lead to systematic destruction of street furniture, burning of private cars and motorcycles, fires in central streets that alarm neighbors, invasion of commercial and banking premises, attacks on the forces of order and even the assault on a police station of the Mossos as happened in Vic.
Freedom of demonstration never protects the use of irrational violence, and even less at a time when freedoms are restricted and businesses are forced to close due to a pandemic that threatens the survival of many companies. There is the right to protest, not to exercise violence. The police cannot allow vandalism. Their obligation is to prevent them while respecting democratic values. But the Mossos are not a Benedictine congregation or an NGO of followers of Gandhi. And maintaining order cannot always be done without a measured exercise of force. And less so when an organized minority of participants acts aggressively.
The absence of violence in the streets – which always ends up favoring extremism – is one of the most precious qualities of democracy. That is why it was astonishing that Pablo Echenique, very close to Vice President Iglesias, expressed his “support for the young anti-fascist militants who are demonstrating in the streets.”
No, a party in the government of a European country cannot support, or justify, street violence. No one responsible did it in France when the “yellow vests” explosions. That is why it has been fundamental – and essential – for the Prime Minister to affirm on Friday that “in a full democracy – and Spain is – the use of violence is inadmissible … democracy never protects violence … the Government will act forcefully against any form of violence ”.
A full democracy is not a perfect democracy and Pedro Sánchez has done – with some delay – what he should have done. But Spain cannot live long with a president who has to correct his second vice president or the most direct collaborators of him every week. It is a matter to which we will have to return.