dimarts, 28 de novembre de 2017

Poesia / Poems

[Català/English] Més coses que han passat en aquests dos anys. Al gener 2017, la Sílvia va guanyar el XIX Ramon Ferrando Adell de Poesia 2016, del poble de Jesús (Baix Ebre) amb La Calaixera. I al juny 2016, va guanyar el primer premi per votació popular en la Mostra oberta de poesia organitzat per CalaCultura a l'Ametlla de Mar. Del primera poema, vam fer una gravació a casa, però el segon video el vam encarregar a una professional, la Eva Mascarell. Per més coses que fem en el món de la llengua i cultura, aquest blog.
This year Silvia has presented poems in two poetry competitions, and won them both! Here are the videos we made afterwards. The first is home-made, but for the second one we paid a professional film-maker to make the film. The poems are in Catalan and I'm not about to translate them now, but I think you can enjoy the spirit of them anyway (and the texts are in the Youtube descriptions). Remember we also have another blog for our work and leisure regarding the world of words.


divendres, 24 de novembre de 2017

The weekend in Milan

[English below]
Continuarem barrejant l'actualitat amb coses que hem fet, o pensaments que he tingut (pocs), durant aquests dos anys d'aturada del blog. Mira, al maig 2017 vam anar a Milà. Jo no hagues pensat mai en anar-hi però va ser un regal de la familia i amics, uns vols i una nit a Milà i aixì que els vam aprofitar. Vam arribar dissabte a les 10 del matí, vam deixar fato a l'hotel i cap al centre. Sóc molt de caminar per les ciutats, i aixi pots veure coses que no surten en els "10 coses a veure a Milà". Vam passar els dos dies per la ciutat pegant voltes baix la pluja. Catedral, i milers d'esglesies, galeries de compra a preus inaccesibles, van ser les coses tipiques de veure, però el que ens va fermés gràcia van ser; vam passar un parell d'hores dins d'un museu de instruments musicals al Castello Sforzesco, vam passar molt de temps, i gastar diners, en una llibreria impressionant dins dels Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, i, lo millor, vam tocar un piano Fazioli. Com que la Sílvia estava pensant comprar-se un piano nou, vam buscar "botigues d'instruments" a Google, per a veure si en tenien alguns pianos. La primera botiga que vam anar, resulta que és la casa dels pianos Fazioli, que jo no coneixia en absolut, pero són pianos que costen molts, molts de diners. Els més cars del món. I els més bons. La botiga era molt exclusiva però ens vam armar de valor i vaam entrar, demanant si podiem almenys mirar-los. La dona de la botiga ens va animar a tocar, i aixi la Sílvia va passar 20 minuts tocant-ne un! Bé, algunes fotos del viatge... i alguna canço que evoca Milà per a mi, adolescent dels 80.
Mixing current news with things we've done in the two years while I've had the blog on standby, let's talk about our surprise trip to Milan in May 2017. One of the last places I'd have thought of visiting, but some relatives and friends gave us the trip (flights and a night in hotel) as a present, so off we went! Spent the two days walking round, as in my opinion that's the best way to see a city, making sure you see loads of things not on the "10 things you must see" list. It rained all the time! Apart from the 10 Things, then, we saw three especially interesting places for us: we spent 2 hours in a musical instruments museum in the Castella Sforzesco. We found an amazing bookshop in the spectacular shopping centre Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. And, best of all, quite by chance we ended up in the best piano shop in the world. As we're thinking of changing our piano, I "Googled" instrument shops to go and have a look at. The first one we went to was a Fazioli one, which meant nothing to me. But, it turns out these pianos are works of art, the most expensive and best ones in the world, used by many top pianists. The shop was really exclusive but we put on a brave face and entered hoping they'd let us look at the pianos. Not only did they do that, but they insisted we have a tinkle -so Silvia ended up playing a Fazioli for 20 minutes! Photos. Oh, and music, this was a music blog remember? Something which reminds this 1980s teenager of all things Italian.

Scala Theatre
 Cool courtyards
 Fazioli piano (olive wood!)

 Instrument museum
 Cathedral, which we didn't queue to enter
 Famous shopping centre
 Here on the left was the petrol station where they hung Mussolini's dead body for people to see
 Love books!

divendres, 17 de novembre de 2017

What happened after the Catalan referendum?

And then what happened. The days following the 1 October vote (see last week's post), I think many of us were in a state of shock. Shocked and emotionally affected by what we’d seen, and were still seeing, as more and more images and stories became public, and also amazed by just how successful the vote had actually been in those conditions. Every time I met someone who I knew felt deeply about the cause or had been ‘manning’ a polling station too, my eyes filled up with tears. The international press seemed to give a very clear idea of what had happened so we were hopeful that someone somewhere in Brussels might finally speak up. I’m not asking them to say, “oh yeah, Catalonia be free” – merely for them to ‘advise’ the Spanish government to sit down and work out a political negotiated agreement on how to move forward on this clear demand by millions of citizens. Given the refusal of Spain to even accept what had happened, many opinion-makers and politicians requested international mediation but Spain refused this too. In another sad revamp of political methods from darker days, instead of talking, Spanish ministers went on record claiming that the referendum as such hadn’t happened (merely a few chaotic illegal acts), that the medical service was lying when it stated they had treated over 900 people, that hundreds of police had been injured (a number later reduced to 4), and one minister even went on the BBC to say that the majority of images of police violence were faked (when in fact many were recorded by international media, including the BBC!).

3 October – general strike called in Catalonia to protest police violence and give our backing to the referendum. This strike wasn’t just called by trade unions, but by political parties and pro-independence groups and associations so basically it represented a complete shutdown of Catalonia for a day, especially when people blocked the Mediterranean motorway and train-line at different points in the day. A glance at a map shows that Spain, and Europe, are playing with fire as it would be, and is, so easy to cut off main transport communications between Spain and France. A demonstration of about 5000 people was held in our local town, Tortosa.

10 October – after a nerve-wracking week of intense political drama and debate with everybody following the news 24 hours a day, the Catalan President officially presented the results of the referendum to the Catalan Parliament. He said that these results (together with Spain’s “response”) legitimized a declaration of independence but that he would leave it “in suspension” a few weeks to allow for any possible dialogue. People say this was probably due to the fact that Donald Tusk, leader of the European Council, had made a last-minute call for restraint and not to take the jump to independence just yet, implying that maybe Europe had woken up and would intervene if we didn’t push things to the limit (now, looking back, it seems he fooled us). The evening President Puigdemont said this in Parliament there were tens of thousands of Catalans outside the  building, ready, if necessary, to try and block the entrance of Spanish police whom everyone believed would try to arrest the President. In fact this week, it has been confirmed in the press that if he’d directly declared independence there were plans for police to enter via helicopter, sewers, and attacking the main entrance, whatever the cost in physical injuries to citizens.

16 October – Background; there is a huge grassroots pro-indy group in Catalonia, called ANC, with over 50,000 paying members, and with many many more people following its guidelines and demonstrations. There is also a highly-respected cultural association set up in Franco’s days to defend Catalan literature, culture, and language, called Omnium. This group often work alongside ANC to organize independence events. Anyway, on 20 September the Spanish police raided different Catalan government buildings in Barcelona. The biggest raid was in the Economy ministry where they arrested government officials and took away loads of documents, mainly connected to the “illegal”referendum. Omnium and ANC called for a protest gathering outside the building while the police were inside. Literally thousands turned up, with many more blocking roads and protesting in other parts of Barcelona too as people saw it as Spain trying to take over the Catalan government, and do away with self-rule as they’d already threatened. A stand-off was reached with the police unable to leave the building peacefully thanks to all the people outside but eventually in the evening the leaders of Omnium and ANC asked people to move away, to form a corridor for the police to start leaving, and as soon as possible to go home as the protest was over. Well, the Spanish public prosecutor has brought charges against these two people which still have to be proven in court –charges of “sedition” which could apparently lead to a 30-year sentence. Meanwhile, on 16 October, the judge jailed them anyway on remand while they await trial. Today marks one whole month in jail - for two innocent people.

27 October –after weeks of attempting to get Spain to negotiate or Europe to propose international mediation, 2 key things happened this day. The Catalan Parliament voted to declare independence with 70 of 135 MPs in favour. A historic moment with lots of epic images, anthem singing, flag waving, solemnity.... but, at roughly the same time in Madrid the Spanish government were also playing their top card. They decided to put Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution into practise for the first time. This allows the central government to take over the home-rule powers of any of the autonomous communities (Catalonia is one of about 20) in Spain if the government thinks they’ve misbehaved, to put it in plain English. Many believed a few months ago that they wouldn’t go so far as this, effectively eliminating home-rule, as the political setup of autonomous communities is one of the key parts of the glue holding Spain together. But Rajoy and co. had been warning that this day might come, and it did. Thus, as Catalans hit the streets to celebrate, Spain put the machine into action to take over Catalonia’s government.
So, there were now two parallel realities. In one, Catalonia had declared its independence and must now put it into practise. In the second reality, Spain had taken over the Catalan government and dismissed its President and ministers. At that moment, people believed we either go meekly into the night and allow Spain to crush us, or we go for the epic defence of the new Catalan Republic, with the President and his ministers in the Parliament building surrounded by thousands of citizens protecting our democracy, while the Catalan police take over the positions of Spanish police around the country, especially at key control points like airports etc. The fact that we were called to celebrate in town squares, rather than encircle the Parliament on the night of the 27th was a clue as to which road we’d be taking, though. Not the epic Braveheart one, but the one of peace and common sense. This was confirmed over the weekend when the Catalan govt basically disappeared, except for the President who was seen going about his social life and who asked Catalans, in a televised speech, above all to peacefully defend our democracy in whatever way necessary and not to respond to provocations. Another key aspect was that Rajoy announced they’d hold autonomous elections in Catalonia on 21 December (illegally as only the Catalan parliament can call these elections). Would independence parties participate? Will they be allowed to? How, if we’re already independent?

30 October – Monday morning. Catalan government officially dismissed by Spain. Would they dare to turn up for work? Would they be arrested? Over the weekend the chief of the Catalan police accepted Spanish police taking control over them (following Article 155) so we now knew there’d be no clashes between different police forces. One Minister turned up, was in his office for a while, then left again. But where’s the President? By lunchtime we knew. In Brussels. Rumours had flown in previous weeks that if it came to the worst, Belgium would be a possible place for the Catalan government to go into exile – an act with significant historic overtones for Catalans who have seen their governments arrested, executed, or exiled before. Meanwhile Spain issued arrest warrants for them.

31 October – President Puigdemont press conference in Brussels. He explained that up until the 29th itself he had tried to negotiate a last-minute agreement with Spain to no avail. He had offered to forget the independence declaration and call elections, if Spain called off the threat of Article 155 – to no avail. He explained that on the same day of the independence vote, he’d been told that Spain was more than willing to use violence to end this situation. That if we went down the “epic road” (my wording), they’d use police violence against any citizens trying to obstruct the police from arresting the government. That there may be deaths, and these would be on the Catalan government’s conscience. [Another top-ranking Catalan MP went on record this week confirming this, that Spain had threatened the Catalan govt with civilian deaths]. Given this information, Puigdemont wisely reaffirmed what we have always said, that the birth of the independent Catalonia can only be a peaceful birth, and faced with this level of brutality, it was better to retreat and play intelligently. The plan would be for some of the Catalan govt ministers to return to Spain to face their court cases, while the President and 4 ministers would stay in Brussels to actually work as the legitimate Catalan government, making all the contacts they can to generate support and/or denounce what’s happening. He also said Catalans have no fear of democracy, so we would accept the gauntlet of the December elections. It also turned out that the independence vote hadn’t been completely legalised as it hadn’t been published in the official gazette of the Catalan Parliament yet, another play in this intriguing game of violent chess.

2 November – 8 Catalan government ministers travel to Madrid for preliminary hearings on their court cases, and are immediately jailed on remand too. As we all think we know, when “important people” are jailed, they are treated with kid gloves, aren’t they? Well, not here. Apparently they were sat on benches without seatbelts in the back of police vans for a 3-hour drive at full pelt, speeding round corners, with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Meanwhile Spanish police officers insulted them and played a constant loop of the Spanish national anthem. On their arrival at the prison, at least two were then strip-searched.
Apart from being government ministers who’d merely carried out their political programme/promises, peacefully and clearly, two members of the government used to be MPs in the European Parliament, well-known and respected for their work on peace, international cooperation, and human rights. One of them was even involved in the peace talks in Yugoslavia. And now they are treated like this. Words fail me. They are also still in jail as I write this.

8 November – a second general strike, once again bringing roads and railways to a standstill.

9 November – the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament called to court too for allowing the Parliament to hold a debate and vote on independence. She was given a bail of €150,000 to avoid jail –but the judge/beaurocratic system wouldn’t accept the payment until the next day, so she had to spend a night in prison too!
Meanwhile, despite initial reluctance, it became clear that we (pro-indy parties) had decided to face the 21 December elections whatever happened. Perhaps this would be the signal Europe needs, yet another victory for independence, this time through elections? At the previous elections, two pro-indy parties joined forces, while a third left-wing one stood separately but supported the others in Parliament. This time, after much debate, they’ve decided to stand each on their own, and then make coalitions afterwards, presuming they win of course. At the same time, Spain’s been doing its work too –sending its ambassadors and the foreign minister to spread lies and confusion, criticizing Catalan press and TV (getting ready to take them over too), criticizing the Catalan education system (getting ready to make radical changes), wondering whether pro-independence parties or jailed politicians can stand for elections, and organizing unionist rallies in Barcelona –filled out with people bussed in from all around Spain! The Chief of Catalan police, responsible for the quick and efficient response to the terrorist attacks in Catalonia in August has now been demoted to a pen-pushing job in a small police station. And slowly but surely, Spain has been taking over Catalan ministries.
There have also been many, almost daily, gatherings, rallies, and other activities demanding freedom for the ten political prisoners now sleeping in Spanish jails, hundreds of miles away from their families. 

11 November - The largest such demonstration was held in Barcelona last Saturday. Probably over 750,000 people showed (a) we want these prisoners released and (b) the Catalan ‘problem’ isn’t going away. Photo below:

diumenge, 12 de novembre de 2017

Visiting Harry Potter Studios, August 2016

[English version below]
Pensant que tampoc cal que el blog renascut ha de ser monotematic, aniré explicant algunes de les coses que he fet en aquests dos anys sabatics. 
Harry Potter. Al final dels anys 1990 quan Potter va començar a ser famos, jo vaig tenir l'actitud tipic que tenia quan era més jove. Si a tothom li agrada, pos, a mi no. No m'apunto a una moda perque sí. Vaig a ser critic (pensant que merament era un reciclatje d'altres llibres classics de la literatura en anglès). Evidentment, em vaig equivocar com en moltes coses en la vida. Quan vam tenir xiquets, i ells es van enganxar als llibres (llegint i rellegint, en anglès, català, castellà), vaig llegir-los per posar-me al dia. I vaig quedar enganxat igualment! Són molt bons i els recomano a tothom, igual que us recomano a 'open your minds' i no ser tant negatiu en coses noves com jo vaig ser! En fi, l'estiu del 2016 vam decidir visitar els estudis a prop de Londres on van gravar moltes escenes de les pel·licules. Increible, val molt la pena. Si sou fans, ho recomano molt. Vam fer 3 hores de cotxe per arribar (i 3 per tornar), però no m'arrepenteixo. Crec que vam passar gairebé 5 hores dins dels estudis, i una hora dins la botiga!
To avoid the reborn blog becoming just a Catalan independence blog, I'll throw in a few posts on what I've been doing during the last two years.
Harry Potter. When I was younger, so much younger than today, I was a bit of a fool in that whenever something new came along or became fashionable, I'd always steer in the opposite direction or try and ignore it, if not criticize it. When the Potter craze broke out at the end of the 1990s, I did the same, moaning that it was just a rehash of other great kids' literature etc. I was wrong of course. Flash forward some years until our kids were old enough to get hooked on Potter (reading and rereading them again and again, in English, Catalan, Spanish). I had to read them then to see what they were talking about, and I loved them. So now we're all hooked. That's why we visited the Harry Potter Film Studios near Watford in the summer of 2016. A 3-hour drive down (and 3 hours back) were well worth it. We spent about 5 hours in the studios, and an hour in the shop,and I'd go back tomorrow if I could. There you go, give it a try!

dijous, 9 de novembre de 2017

Com vaig viure el dia 1 d'octubre

M’ha costat però, per fi, 4 ratlles de com jo vaig viure el famos 1 d’octubre. El post anterior (6 de novembre) va del mateix, però en anglès i una mica més llarg ja que explico més coses. For English version, see 6 November post.

Vam anar a dormir a la una de la matinada, ja del diumenge, amb el cap bullint pel que veníem sentint a les noticies i xarxes. A les 4.30, despertador, engegar ordenador per mirar més noticies, dutxa rapida, fer 2 entrepans cada u i dos termos de cafè. Sobre les 5 la Sílvia i jo vam marxar de casa, en plena nit, deixant els xiquets, i el gat,dormint. A les 5.15 ja estàvem al col·legi electoral que ens toca a Tortosa. Ja n’hi havia potser una trentena de persones al carrer i en seguida va arribar algú amb la clau i vam poder entrar. Bé,bon senyal, ja estàvem a dins abans de que la policia puguis segellar-ho. Llavors va venir algú amb una capsa de croissants i més cafè. Els que havien de fer la mesa i els apoderats van quedar dins de l’edifici mentre els demés vam sortir al carrer, per protegir la porta perquè, com sabeu, no se sabia ben bé qui vindria dels 3 cossos de policia o en quins objectius/actituds. La Silvia com a apoderada d’Omnium es va quedar dins.
A fora, vam posar 4 cadires i vam començar a xerrar del que ens esperava, tots nerviosos però il·lusionats. Hi havia dos ex-alumnes nostres allí, que ara són músics/compositors i vam parlar una estona amb ells. També els seus pares, Manel, autor i professor jubilat de literatura, i Cinta, artista i professora. Llavors sobre les 6 del matí es va aturar una furgoneta, va sortir algú amb una bossa negra i va córrer dins l’edifici. Les urnes! Les urnes que els minions de Rajoy no havien trobat i que ens deien que no existien. Un gol a favor nostra, i dels nostres ànims. Havíem guanyat als super-serveis de policia de tot un estat. A dins, la gent va començar a preparar taules, paperetes etc

Sobre les 7 va arribar un cotxe amb dos Mossos. Natros ens vam ajuntar a prop de la porta, ja érem unes 50 persones potser. Els Mossos van sortir del cotxe i van preguntar, “Qui és el responsable aquí?”. “Tots”. “Que feu?” En aquest moment, Manel va sortir davant i els va dir que anàvem a fer una recital de poesia, començant amb les poemes de Gerard Verges. I allí mateix Manel,amb la seva veu impressionant, va començar a recitar L’ombra rogenca de la lloba. Si no sou de les Terres de l’Ebre, que sapigueu que Verges és un dels grans poetes d’aquí, i de tota Catalunya, a més a més d’haver fet una de les millors traduccions de Shakespeare al català. Va morir fa 2 anys. El seu fill estava dins del col·legi electoral, formant part d’una de les meses. Com podeu imaginar, només eren les 7 del matí i ja ens caien les llàgrimes d’emoció a més d’una persona. Anava a ser un dia molt especial!
Llavors un dels Mossos ens va informar que qualsevol activitat relacionat amb el referèndum seria il·legal, i que ells ens estarien observant. Van marxar uns 20 metres i es va posar allí a carrer mirant.

Després d’una estona, ens vam relaxar i vam tornar a escampar-nos per les escales de l’edifici i per la vorera. Continuaven les converses, però sempre amb un ull, o orella, pendent de les xarxes socials, els missatges, la radio. Llavors va passar l’alcalde, Ferran Bel, i la diputada tortosina, Meritxell Roigé, a preguntar si tot anava bé. Sobre les 8 del matí una nova bona noticia, lo del vot universal. Un altre gol que havíem marcat a Rajoy, que no en tenia ni idea. Això de poder votar en un altre col·legi si el teu estava tancat, donava moltes oportunitats de votar esquivant la policia. Evidentment, com sabeu, els informàtics del govern espanyol van intentar tancar-ho però a traves d’una guerra informàtica continua tot el dia, durant la major part del dia va funcionar.

A les 9 del matí, van obrir les portes i vam poder començar a votar. Algun problema tècnic però poc a poc, vam començar. Potser ja n’hi havia un centenar de persones a fora i vam decidir entre tothom d’anar entrant de 6 en 6 per assegurar que teníem un gran grup a la porta sempre. Tal com va passar arreu de Catalunya, molts vam dir que hi estaríem tot el dia. Vam passar l’estona parlant, piulant, decidint que faríem. Tornarien a intentar entrar els Mossos? Vindrien la Guardia Civil o la Policia Nacional, els piolins? Algú intentaria entrar a tancar l’edifici usant la força. Algunes persones, més experimentats en moviments socials i disobeiencia pacifica, van explicar les tècniques i com ens hauríem de posar, i sobretot allò que no hauríem de fer. Si venia la policia, ens asseurem a que ens treguen? Entrem dins i tanquem la porta des de dins? Amaguem les urnes? En fi, aquestes converses van pegar voltes tot el dia, amb el neguit constant al cos. A les 9 del mati semblava un debat teòric, però abans de les 9.30 ja arribaven les primeres imatges d’intervencions violentes de la policia a Barcelona i altres llocs. Ja veiem fotos de gent sagnant, videos de policia pegant a la gent. Aquella foto de la dona gran amb la ara plena de sang. En un moment ja em vaig adonar que les coses serien molt pitjors del que pensava.
I que és el que pensava? Pos, jo imaginava files de policia als voltants dels col·legis intimidant, furgonetes de policia fent soroll i intimidant, i intents de parar les votacions on no n’hi havia gaire gent. I així natros votaríem i Rajoy diria que havia sigut il·legal i caòtic i, per tant, no vàlid, i au, Espanya podria intentar vendre l’idea de que havia sigut un nou 9N.  Ja havia vist els videos de la policia marxant dels seus pobles cap a Catalunya durant els dies anteriors, ondejant banderes, cantant “A por ellos”etc, uns comportaments indignes de qualsevol policia en democràcia i que ja haurien d’haver causat dimissions dins del Ministerio del Interior espanyol. Però suposava que tot era un gran ‘show’, un intent d’intimidar, i que no arribarien a la violència. Estava equivocat.

Només minuts després va començar a córrer la veu, “Estan a La Ràpita, estan pegant a la gent”, i minuts més tard ja teníem videos i fotos que ho comprovaba. Això no era al capital, allà a Barcelona on realment podrien causar un caos espectacular per intentar invalidar la votació. Això és un poble petit de pescadors i turisme, un lloc tranquil al costat del Delta, on molts hem passat molts dies de l’estiu. Com podia ser? Per que anirien allí a pegar a la gent? Als videos és veuen moltissimes furgonetes de la Guardia Civil en equipament d’aldarulls, amb casc i escopeta de bales de goma a punt, repartint hosties a la gent que estaven esperant per entrar a votar. La gent simplement es quedaven allí quiets, amb les mans a l’aire fins que els cops els feien apartar. Llavors els tocava a uns altres rebre, fins que la policia arriba a la porta que també trenquen per poder entrar i agafar la urna. En anglès simplement diríem “What the f*ck?!” Jo tremolava mirant els videos, gent sagnant, gent gran, gent jove, gent que havien estat al meu costat a les manis de la PDE, una amiga periodista... I tot això per impedir una votació que ja havien anunciat que no ens serviria de res. Aquí a Tortosa vam tornar a estar en situació d’alerta, veient que això passava molt a prop d’aquí que la policia espanyola no tenia cap problema en usar la violència.

 Com a anglès que sóc, i obsessionat amb les xarxes socials, vaig passar moltes hores piulant o enviant emails. M’havia posat a seguir a Twitter tots els observadors internacionals i molts de periodistes, i així els podia fer arribar noticies rapidament o intentar piular en anglès sobre el que estava passant. Tot això sumat a les dotzenes de cartes i mails que havia enviat abans i després, representa la meva gra de sorra per ajudar a que podem decidir el nostre futur democràticament i pacificament. Crec que la rapidesa de les xarxes i el treball excel·lent dels periodistes internacionals va ser clau per impedir que la violència no arribes a ser encara pitjor del que era. I ja era molt greu. Gasos llagrimosos, bales de goma, cops de bastó, gent arrastrat en terra pels cabells, més de 1000 persones necessitant atenció medica, tot això en el context d’una votació ja és molt,però molt greu, però em temo que els ordres del govern espanyol eren de continuar i augmentar la violència. Per sort, Europa va veure el que passava i no va passar res encara més greu. 

Les noticies continuaven arribant. La policia entrava a la força al col·legi on s’havia de votar el President, però ell va arribar a un altre poble per votar esquivant la vigilància policial. Espentes contra la Consellera d’Educació. Trenquen el col·legi on havia de votar la Carme Forcadell. Combois de furgonetes de policia anant de col·legi en col·legi. Els Mossos també tancaven col·legis, però sense emplear la violència. En algunes ciutats, donat les possibilitats del cens universal, van deixar alguns col·legis sense gent, i van concentrar les urnes en un que podrien protegir millor. Llavors aquests desprotegits, eren fàcils d tancar. 

A meitat matí, al nostre col·legi va arribar una furgoneta de Mossos, aquest cop de la secció d’aldarulls diria. I minuts després, dos furgonetes més. Al final uns 20 agents. Van formar una linea al mig del carrer davant nostre. La seva actitud no era fàcil d’endevinar i no sabíem exactament que passaria. Molts de nervis. Poc a poc es van anar apropant. Un parla pel radio, i després un parell intenten pujar les escales per entrar al col·legi. Però la gent no ens movem i finalment baixen les escales i tornen al carrer. Després d’uns minuts més de nervis i tensió, al final tornen a les furgonetes i marxen. He vist moltes escenes de violència policial a les noticies, i conec molt bé el que va passar en els anys de Thatcher al Regne Unit usant la policia per motius polítics, però no he estat tant a prop mai. Les protestes que hem fet aquí sempre han sigut lúdiques i han tingut una resposta de la policia de respecte. No m’entrava el cap que ara, per votar (és igual si és legal o no), la policia ens pegarien. Tremolava i mirava al costat. Teníem a gent molt gran entre natros, però decidits a quedar aquí passi el que passi. Després ens van dir que aquests Mossos si que van aconseguir tancar un col·legi a Tortosa, un que està al final d’un carrer estret sense sortida i era relativament fàcil bloquejar el carrer per a que no puguen arribar els votants. El punt ‘divertit’ va passar a la tarde quan alguns policies, després d’estar allí hores, necessitava usar els serveis del col·legi i els de dins van poder negociar una mena de treva, a canvi de deixar-los usar els lavabos, els votants podrien sortir del col·legi o anar a buscar menjar.

La Ràpita està a només 30minuts de Tortosa, així que la pregunta que ens feíem era “Ara on són la Guardia Civil? Venen aquí?”. Una hora després, ja sabíem on estaven. A Roquetes (al costat de Tortosa), repartint cops i rebentant el pavelló esportiu on la gent votava. El video és impressionant però sobretot els moments quan marxen els agents, “acompanyat” per 500 roquetencs. Poden pegar i robar urnes, però no poden robar la dignitat de la gent.   .
Ara Tortosa? Molts rumors i missatges. Ara estan allí, ara aquí. Vigila que venen. Amaguem les urnes, amaguem les llistes de DNIs, tothom a la porta, etc. L’alcalde va tornar a passar, insistint en calma i que continuem animant la gent a votar. Per sort, els rumors no són de veritat.
Va passar un camió de bombers – aplaudiments -que suposo anava voltant pels col·legis per veure si calia estar-hi. Les imatges de bombers defensant a la gent en alguns pobles son de “gallina de piel”.
Després va venir a votar un altre gran poeta tortosí, Manolo Perez Bonfill. És  molt gran ja i va en cadira de rodes. Més aplaudiments.

Llavors per fi, vaig recordar que tenia un entrepà a la motxilla i vaig esmorzar i un cafè. Vaig entrar al col·legi per passar una estona en la Sílvia i parlar de tot el que estava passant. A dins també havien estat molt enfeinats tot el mati, intentant que la votació electrònica funciones a totes hores, amb cues de gent amb ganes de votar i triar el futur d’aquest país.
Davant de tants rumors d’una arribada imminent de la Guardia Civil, vam avisar a un familiar que seria millor venir a votar sense els xiquets petits, no cal córrer riscos. Els votants que venien amb xiquets o bebes, els animaven a votar i marxar rapids. També vam trucar a casa per parlar en els nostres fills i explicar-los que aquí no havia passat res per si estaven amoïnats. I missatges a la família d’Anglaterra també perquè sabíem que les noticies del BBC ja estaven mostrant la brutalitat de la policia. Sort d’això, perquè ara quan el govern espanyol ha intentat negar o minimitzar la violència, moltes cadenes internacionals tenen els seus propis imatges per demostrar que realment va passar de veritat. 

Bé, vam continuar xerrant, piulant, votant, i allà a migdia les coses es van tranquil·litzar. Semblava que la policia també havia parat per a dinar. Natros vam dinar un altre entrepà a les escales del col·legi i vam plorar de rabia abraçats a una altra ex-alumna nostra que estimem molt i que també havia passat tot el dia aquí. Vam mirar alguns videos més però realment ja no teníem forces per aguantar tanta misèria. Com que hi havia prou gent encara allí, vam decidir voltar una mica pels altres col·legis electorals. Però només arribar a un altre, on hi havia 200 persones a la plaça dinant, amb alguns nebots i amics nostres entre mig, vam rebre un missatge dient que la Guardia Civil havia dinat a Amposta, i ara tornaven a agafar furgonetes i carretera amunt, direcció Tortosa. Resulta que des dels atacs del matí, hi havia algú seguint-los en cotxe per anar informant de cap a on anaven! Vam tornar rapidament al nostres col·legi i vam tornar a discutir de que fer per a defensar el col·legi i les urnes, i si podríem evitar que usessen la violència d’alguna manera,  però llavors ens van informar que havien passat de llarg de Tortosa i anaven cap a la Ribera de l’Ebre. Vam tornar a respirar i vam anar cap a l’ajuntament a un altre col·legi. Allí també teníem amics que havien estat tot el dia, tenien un grapat de clavells a punt per donar a la policia si arribessen.

Vam tornar al nostre col·legi a passar la tarde. Els votants no paraven d’arribar, però ara sense les cues del matí. Més missatges, ara la Guardia Civil estan a Mora la Nova, ara estan aparcats, ara van direcció Rasquera etc. Tots natros amb un ull als missatges i un ull al rellotge, esperant que s’acabes el dia bé. A les 18.00 els dos Mossos de fora van acabar el seu torn de feina, i van venir altres dos que ens van tornar a fer les preguntes i van demanar si els deixaríem entrar. Vam tornar a bloquejar el pas. Sobre les 19.00, missatge, la Guardia Civil que ara torna a baixar pel riu i venen cap a Tortosa. Mentrestant els Mossos van tancar un altre col·legi a Tortosa, però només al carrer. La gent de dins van començar el recompte amb els vots que tenien. A uns altres col·legis de Tortosa van començar a tancar abans d’hora (horari oficial era tancar a les 20.00), preferint contar els vots que tenien, abans d’arriscar perdre tots davant un atac de la Guardia Civil a l’últim moment. Amb tants entrebancs i violència, fa molta ‘gracia’ encara sentir ara com els contraris de la votació diuen que ho vam fer de qualsevol manera, sense garanties democràtiques, fent trampes, i que la participació va ser baixa. Qualsevol persona que va viure aquell dia, i que havia vist les setmanes abans, sap que va ser un milacre de l’actuació, organització i valentia col·lectiva dels catalans poder votar els que vam poder votar. I que va funcionar, quan la gent creu en una cosa, ho fem funcionar.

Natros vam decidir aguantar obert fins les 20.00. Una mica abans, jo vaig marxar per portar els xiquets nostres a casa (havien dinat en la iaia – gràcies!) i comprar-los un MacDonald’s per no perdre temps i poder tornar al col·legi per si de cas. Encara quedava la possibilitat que la policia intentaria confiscar els vots Quan vaig arribar al col·legi ja havien tancat la porta i estaven contant els vots a dins. Vam esperar fora un bon grupet fins que els organitzadors van sortir a explicar els resultats. Més aplaudiments i llàgrimes, i cap a casa, després d’ordenar la sala de les votacions i deixar tot al seu lloc. Els dos Mossos ens van preguntar si havíem acabat lo que estàvem fent, i van marxar. I natros cap a casa a mirar els resultats a la tele.
Que vaig votar jo? Res. Com que no tinc la “nacionalitat espanyola” no puc votar.

Resultats: 2.286.217 vots (43% del cens) – o sigui, més de 2 milions de persones es van jugar la salut per poder votar.
2.044.038 Sí (89,4%)
177.547 No (7,8%)
64.000 vots en blanc o nuls
Uns 770.000 votants potencials o no van poder votar o els seus vots van ser confiscats quan la policia atacava o tancava col·legis. (Si arriben a votar/contar el 43% d’aquests vots, ja haguessem arribat al 2.600.000 vots!)
Més de 900 persones van necessitar atenció medica per culpa de la violència policial.

Les meves conclusions; 1. Encara ara, un mes després, trobo increïble que tanta gent de tots edats i tipus de estatus social van creure en aquesta votació i van aconseguir que funciones, tant en els dies previs com aquell diumenge. La logística de l’organització, amagat de les forces espanyoles, és bestial, i el fet de voler votar després de veure a la tele a policia arrastrant votants per terra pels cabells, o saltant damunt d’ells i pegant-los cops, unbelievable! Passi lo que passi a nivell polític o legal, per mi els catalans tenen el dret legítim de declarar l’independència. M’és igual si la votació va ser legal o constitucional o no. Les lleis i la constitució són eines per a la gent, no una ‘camisa de força’. Si hi ha una demanda tan gran, tan constant, per poder triar el nostre futur, els governs haurien de reconeixer’l i treballar per donar una sortida política a aquesta situació.
2. La violència de la policia estava planejada i deliberada. Ells abien quin tipus de ‘acte il·legal’ cometiem, i amb quins tipus de persones es trobarien. I van actuar d’aquella manera des de primera hora del mati, poble per poble. El fet de no saber a qui li tocaria rebre en cada minut, segur que també ho van planejar per deixar-nos a tots amb la por al cos tot el dia. He vist molts d’imatges de policia en acció en altres moments a Catalunya o Anglaterra però no tanta violència innecessaria en un context com aquest, amb ciudatans pacífics votant! Aquí no havia cap protesta, cap vaga, cap manifestació, i sobretot no havia cap incident violent per part dels votants. Cap confrontació entre policia i ciutadans, simplement la policia atacant a gent.
3. Estic convençut que l’estat espanyol considera que Catalunya és una colònia que han de reprimir i controlar. Les actituds i opinions dels grans partits (en plural) espanyols, de les mitjans de comunicació, del sistema judicial, tot indica el mateix. Cap oferta atractiva per intentar convèncer als catalans a quedar-se com germans, simplement s’enfoca sobre la llei, la força, els insults, la repressió, la violència. Tot per assegurar que no podem deixar-los. El simple fet de la policia espanyola marxant dels seus pobles amb la bandera espanyola és un fet que no s’hauria de veure en una Europa democràtica.
4. Per molt que s’ofenen i ens diuen que no, estic convençut que el fantasma de Franco encara està entre natros, o entre ells. No dic que siguen franquistes, sinó que les actituds i comportaments son un ‘copiar i enganxar’ de l’estil franquista. L’arrogància, intolerància, rebuig al diàleg i a la negociació, la negació de les realitats (tant la votació com la violència va passar, encara que diuen que no), les mentides, la repressió, i al final la violència, són símptomes d’una forma de governar (recolsats pels partits de la ‘oposició’ que també pensen igual) que no son d’una democràcia. El rol de l’estat i l’establishment espanyol és el de controlar als ‘seus’ ciutadans. Sense oblidar els lligams directes reals entre alguns politics i jutges i els dies del franquisme.
.[Demano disculpes pels errors en català!]
[mireu l'entrada del dia 6 de novembre si voleu veure un parell de videos. Si voleu veure més de 150, mireu aquest enllaç]

dilluns, 6 de novembre de 2017

My thoughts on Referendum Day in Catalonia

[versió en català d'aqui un parell de dies] For better or for worse, it’s taken me weeks to write this down – how I lived the Catalan referendum on Sunday, the first of October. [Background info: after several years and numerous official attempts to get Spain to agree to a referendum (as desired by 80% of Catalans), Catalonia finally passed a law in its own parliament allowing for an independence referendum on 1 Oct, and Spanish courts ‘suspended’ it, claiming it was unconstitutional. As Catalans prepared to vote, Spanish police spent weeks searching for the ballot boxes or voting slips, censuring referendum publicity and websites, raiding Catalan govt buildings, arresting govt officials, and shipping in thousands of Spanish National Police and Guardia Civil ready to move into action on referendum day. Judges ordered the Catalan police to stop the vote by not allowing polling stations to open. In a very sensible and logical move, Catalan police said they’d do that only if it didn’t involve creating greater problems such as having to use physical force on crowds of citizens. Many people camped out in polling stations on the Friday and Saturday before the vote to ensure police couldn’t close them. The Catalan police said they’d come to seal them off at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. So, many of us who hadn’t camped out decided to go there before 6...]

After going to bed at 1.a.m, mind awhirl with news reports coming in from around Catalonia of what was happening at different polling stations, the alarm went off at 4.30 a.m on Sunday. Shower, and computer and phone back on to get a quick update via the tweets of tens of thousands of Catalans active on social networks. We made two flasks of coffee and a few sandwiches and left the house in darkness and silence (leaving the kids in bed). My wife and myself got to our polling station around 5.15 and there were already about 30 people there. Within minutes someone had turned up and unlocked the building and we were in! Big sigh of relief that we’d got it open and were in before police officially sealed it off. Someone then came in with two giant flasks of coffee and a box of buns and croissants. Those in charge of organizing and watching over the vote then stayed in the building – those chosen to be electoral officers and volunteer observers (including my wife as a member of the cultural association Omnium). The rest of us went outside to crowd around the door to prevent police from entering if/when they turned up. We relaxed then, a few of us had brought picnic chairs, some brought chairs out of the building and we all started chatting nervously about what the day would hold. Two of our ex-students, now both great musicians-composers, were there with their parents, also great friends of ours (Manel, a retired literature teacher and poet, and Cinta, an artist/sculptor and teacher of art) so we had a grand time with them. Then (my memory of the exact times is vague, but probably around 6ish) a van screeched to a halt outside and someone pulled a black bag out of the back and ran into the polling station. The ballot boxes had arrived! Big moment as Spanish security forces had been searching for them for months, and the Spanish government had even claimed they didn’t exist. As the people inside started to set up the tables and lay out voting slips, our optimism rose outside as it was confirmed that the Catalan government hadn’t been bluffing when they’d promised they could organize this despite having the weight of the Spanish police and judicial system against them. 

Around 7ish a Catalan police car turned up, so we all packed together around the door. About 50 of us. Two Catalan policemen got out and came up to us. “Who’s in charge here?”. “We all are”. “What are you doing?” At this point, Manel moved to the front of the crowd and said “We’re going to hold a poetry recital. We’re going to read poems by local authors all day. Starting with this one by Gerard Verges” This poet was probably the greatest poet to come from Tortosa, and one of the greats in Catalonia – and also the author of the best translation into Catalan of Shakespeare. He passed away two years ago. And his son was in the building, as an electoral officer. So when our friend then started reciting Verges by heart in his magnificent voice, there on the doorstep of the polling station, at 7am on Sunday morning, to the astonishment of the police officers, more than a few tears were shed. And we realized, if we hadn’t already, that this was going to be a special day.
One of the policemen then told us that it was his duty to inform us that any activities linked to the referendum were illegal and that they’d be watching us. They then walked about 20 yards away and stood on the other side of the road.
We eventually relaxed and stopped huddling around the door en masse, spreading out down the steps outside the building and along the pavement and started chatting again, everyone with one eye or ear on their phones to follow social networks or listen to the radio. Then the mayor and our local MP came to check everything was OK before moving on to another station. Some time just after 8, we had another boost to our confidence. The Catalan government announced that the vote would be run under what they call a “universal census” – basically as you vote, they check your ID details, and tick you off electronically using a tablet with internet, which means you can vote at any polling station. This was major news as it meant that even if the police managed to close down stations, if you could get to another one, you could still vote. Also yet one more confirmation we were running rings round the Spanish government who had no idea that this system would be running. Obviously during the day, Madrid got its IT experts into action and they managed to bring the system down several times, but each time we got it running again. A cyberwar, as they say.

Next big moment, 9 a.m., when doors opened. By this time there were around a hundred of us outside. We decided to go in about 6 at a time to vote to ensure there would always be a large group outside in case more police came. People started to queue to go in, while others just milled around commenting on news coming in from other stations and tweeting about what was happening at ours. We also discussed the importance of voting and then staying at the station - most of us had made plans to stay there all day until the station closed and votes were counted. What would the Catalan police do? Would they do as we believed and not use physical force to close down the stations? Would the Spanish National Police or the militarized Guardia Civil turn up? These conversations went on all morning. Some of the voters more experienced in civil obedience were explaining how to sit down, arms linked, not offering resistance etc, while others were talking about going inside the station, locking the doors and barricading ourselves inside. All very theoretical... until tweets started arriving before 9.30 announcing violent interventions of Spanish police forces at different polling stations. Photos and videos of people being beaten with truncheons, and dragged out of polling stations in Barcelona and the north of Catalonia. One particularly shocking photo of an elderly lady with blood streaming down her face. In a state of shock, I realized this was going to be much worse than I’d imagined.
What did I think would happen? That Spanish police would line up outside polling stations, intimidating voters and allowing the Spanish government to claim the vote was ‘illegal’ and chaotic and thus ignore it, as they’d ignored 2014’s public consultation. I knew there were literally thousands of Spanish riot police brought in from other areas of Spain – often to a patriotic send-off in their home town, flag-waving, cries of “Go get them” etc – but assumed it could all be just for show. About 10 minutes later, however, people in the crowd at our station started to say “Guardia Civil have attacked the station in La Ràpita” and minutes later videos were circulating on Twitter. La Ràpita is a small peaceful fishing town in the south of Catalonia, many miles away from the capital – one of those towns you thought the police would ignore as their objective must surely be to create chaos amongst the millions of voters in Barcelona, not down here. I was wrong. The video shows about 20 police vans, maybe 100 officers in riot gear beating people, throwing them out of the way, smashing their way through the doors to get at the ballot boxes. And all the while, those waiting to vote simply stand there with their hands held in the air, until they’re beaten into submission and try to get out of the way. People I know, youngsters, elderly people, people I’ve marched alongside on our “Save the river Ebro” rallies, a friend of mine who’s a journalist covering the event, all beaten and forced out of the way. Images of people in shock, blood everywhere, no one can believe they would do this. It really brought it all home to us.
I suppose psychologically we reverted to a self-defence mechanism and all started to huddle together around the door once more, eyes and ears open. One of the only things I believed I could do, as a Brit, and a good English-speaker, was to do my bit to try and get the message out to whoever wants to listen. On my Twitter account I had followed the 30 or so international observers (many MEPs) who had come, as well as many international journalists whom I knew were covering the day. So, like many others I know, I spent most of the next couple of hours retweeting news stories, photos, videos to them, translating key headines into English (on top of all the dozens of letters and emails I’d sent before the vote, and afterwards). The collective powers of Catalan citizens together with the presence of these people here on the ground was essential to get the news out to international media (and the TV sets of European leaders) as soon as possible. We must be grateful for this; I think it’s only because the news was spread so quickly that things didn’t get any worse than they did (which was horrific anyway, as you’ll see).

More news in; police raided and smashed up the polling stations where the Catalan President and the Speaker of Parliament were due to vote. The President switched cars under a bridge to fool the police helicopter following him and managed to make it to another station to vote before the police came to that one too. The education minister was pushed and shoved by police as she tried to vote. Convoys of police vans were going from station to station doing their worst. Catalan police refused to use violence, and only closed down stations ‘unprotected’ (in some towns, given the “universal census”, the organizers chose to abandon some stations and concentrate the ballot boxes and citizens at just one to make it easier to protect, leaving the other stations ‘unprotected’). But, as feared by many, the Spanish police and Guardia Civil just did their worst. Full riot gear, batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, you name it - all to try and prevent a vote from happening. If it was illegal, (a) surely it’s the organizers who committed the crime, not the voters; and (b) police should respond to a “crime” with a proportionate response. Voting doesn’t deserve a beating.

Next excitement, a van full of Catalan police turn up. They didn’t look so friendly as the first two, who were still there, and judging by their uniforms these were from the Catalan riot police department but not wearing the full gear. They milled about on the other side of the road and stared at us. Then another van. And another. Eventually there were about 20 or so police agents and they formed a line and crossed the road towards us, eventually stopping 2 yards in front of us. This aggressive staring, and telling people not to take photos didn’t bode well. One of them got instructions over the radio, and with a couple more he tried to come up the steps but the people didn’t move. The police finally stepped back. As you can imagine our adrenaline had shot through the roof. I have been on many protest marches but never felt the fear of police violence before. I was shaking and looking around me and, as I’ve said, we were a mixed bunch. There were people in their 80s in the crowd, people who’d waited all their lives (half of it under a dictatorship) for this moment, but luckily no babies or small kids at this moment – earlier on people had come to vote with babies in pushchairs as you do if you think voting is a normal activity. Eventually the police backed off and went back to their vans. About 20 minutes later they drove away. Later we heard they did manage to close a station in another part of Tortosa. A polling station at the end of a narrow cul-de-sac, the police formed a line and prevented anyone else from entering, and prevented those inside from leaving. The only ‘funny’ story is that a few hours later, some police officers needed to ‘relieve themselves’ so the people inside (where the toilets are) were able to negotiate a truce and either leave the building or have food brought in!

La Rapita is about half an hour from Tortosa, so the big question on our minds was ‘where are the Guardia Civil? Are they coming for us too?’ About an hour later, we knew where they were .- in the next town to us, Roquetes. Same tactics, about a hundred came, beat people, smashed windows and doors and took away a ballot box (only one because the people inside had hidden the others and so they were able to continue voting afterwards!). As the police retreated to their vans, with weapons in their hands, the images of about 500 local citizens walking after them chanting for them to leave still brings tears to my eyes now every time I see it. The definition of dignity.
Tortosa next? Rumours fly. ‘They’re in Tortosa, they’re at this station, that one’ Quick, everyone at the door. Hide the boxes, take the lists of people who’ve voted and their ID numbers and hide them. The Mayor came back, telling us to keep calm, keep voting, we have nothing to fear, if they come to prevent us voting this is the picture the world will see, a state which uses  force on its own citizens for voicing their opinion peacefully. The rumours were just that, rumours. They didn’t come to Tortosa.

At one point a fire engine drove past very slowly to loud cheers. Catalan firefighters had promised to come, off-duty, whenever/wherever they could to defend citizens against police violence. It wasn’t necessary in Tortosa but in many towns the photos of firefighters forming a human barricade between riot police and peaceful voters still bring me out in goose pimples.
A bit later, another Tortosa poet came. He must be in his 90s and was wheeled in in his wheelchair by his son. Voted and left the building to another round of applause.

Then I had my sandwich and some coffee and went in the building to be with my wife, Silvia, a while. They’d been very busy inside too. Trying to keep the electronic voting system up and running correctly was hell. Police had even closed down internet in some polling stations. Apart from that, and the nerves, the vote was going well, plenty of participation and people – despite the violence – were still turning up happy to finally be able to vote.

Given the rumours, I phoned my sister-in-law and advised her not to bring her two little kids when she came to vote. Also messaged our kids, and my parents back in the UK who might have been seeing nasty scenes on TV, to say we were OK so far. Back on Twitter, we saw that the international media were really on the ball giving very clear coverage of what was happening. Even some of the international observers had posted their own footage of police violence that they’d seen in person. More chatting, more translating of news to tweet to anyone listening. About two-ish the rate of voting slowed down, and rumours of police moving about locally died down – although we could see that police were in action all around the country. So, time for a sit down inside the building, a sandwich and a drink with Silvia and some friends. Another ex-student of ours was in tears, of emotion and anger, which of course set us all off again. We started to check out videos and photos of what had happened as Silvia hadn’t really had time to see them yet. Horrendous. After our lunch break, when we saw there were enough people around to block any attempts by police to enter (the two original policemen keep coming back and asking if we’d let them in), Silvia and myself decided to go and visit a couple more polling stations in town. We’d just got to another one, where we met Silvia’s nephews and nieces amongst a crowd of about 200, when we got word that the Guardia Civil had finished having lunch in nearby town, Amposta, and were getting back in their vans. It turned out that, since the Roquetes incident, ‘we’ had had someone following them in a car to report on their movements! So, back to our station. More discussions – what to do, obstruct them, move out of the way, lock the doors, is it worth a beating, hide the votes... and eventually another message told us they had driven straight past Tortosa and continued upriver. Another sigh of relief and we decided to visit another polling station. At this one the voters had prepared a bucketful of carnations to give to the riot police if they came. We had a chat with friends there, no one could believe how violent the police have been, but everyone was determined to see this through to the end.
Then back to our station and more and more people coming in to vote. The afternoon/evening passed quickly, with more or less the same events as the morning –horrific images coming in from different towns, rumours, messages about the location of the police vans and so on. Our two police officers went off duty and were replaced by two more at 18.00, so we had to do the same “Can we come in?” business again. About 19.00 we hear the Guardia Civil had raided a couple of towns upriver and were driving back down. The Catalan police closed down entry to another station in Tortosa, but didn’t confiscate the ballot boxes so those inside started counting. Some other stations in Tortosa decided to close now and start counting rather than risk staying open to the offical closing time of 20.00, and risk being raided at the last minute. We decided to chance it, in the hope that we could always hide one of our boxes before the police managed to open the door if they came. Seeing in person all these decisions and efforts to ensure the vote was as well-organized and correct as possible under the conditions (threats, cyber attacks, police violence) just make me even angrier when I hear Spanish politicians saying the vote was fixed. They have literally no idea what happened, and what happens when a people really believe in democracy and their chance to have a say on their own future.

Just before we closed at 20.00, I had to go and pick up our kids who’d been for lunch and spent the afternoon at their grandmother’s house. We called off at McDonald’s for obvious reasons, then I left them at home to fend for themselves, while I went back into town. When I arrived the door was locked, as it should be, while the count went on. Many of us still ‘stood guard’ at the door just in case, until eventually around 21.30 the door opened and the results of our station were announced to a round of applause, sighs of relief, and a few more tears. All that was left was to tidy up, send the results electronically, and head home to see the final nationwide results. The two Catalan policemen politely asked us if we had finished and we said yes, and they also left.
What did I vote? I didn’t. As I am not a ‘Spanish citizen’, I couldn’t vote, but simply went along to help out as I believe in democracy and listening to citizens.

Results: 2,286,217 votes were counted (43% of census) i.e. over 2 million people risked a police beating to vote
2,044,038 Yes (89.4%)
177,547 No (7.8%)
64,000 void/null/blank votes
Also around 770,000 potential voters either couldn’t vote or had votes confiscated after their polling stations were raided or closed down (which would have pushed turnout over 50% mark, not bad considering Spain declared it illegal and many No voters stayed home). 
Over 900 people needed medical attention as a result of the police violence.

My conclusions; 1. Still amazes me that so many people, of all ages, shapes, and sizes, believed in this vote which the Spanish government had tried so hard to stop – that they believed in it and managed to pull it off. The logistics of the months leading up to the vote, what happened on the day, and the mere act of going to vote after you’ve just seen TV scenes of people being battered, thrown down stairs, dragged out by their hair. Whatever happens now regarding the political and legal situation here, the Catalan people have earned the legitimate right to go ahead and declare independence. It doesn't matter to me whether this vote was legal or constitutional or not. Laws and constitutions are meant to be tools for citizens, not strait jackets, and it's clear there is/was a huge demand here by millions of citizens to simply have a say on their future. Governments should acknowledge this and work towards a political solution.
2. The police violence was planned and deliberate. They knew the ‘crime’ being committed, and the kinds of ‘criminals’ they would find, and what we’d do, and they went ahead with a completely over-the-top disproportionate response nationwide. The tactic of driving from town to town, apparently at random was also planned so as to instill us with a sense of fear. I have seen (on TV) extremely violent police actions in Europe before but never in this context. These weren’t ‘clashes between protestors and police’ as some claimed. No one was ‘clashing’ and no one was protesting. This violence was carried out by thousands of police basically attacking innocent people peacefully waiting to vote on a nationwide scale.
3. Spain considers Catalonia to be a colony they must control and subdue. Attitudes from all mainstream political parties, the media, the judicial system, all indicate that they don’t worry about having an attractive proposition to convince Catalonia to stay, but that they focus on insults, disdain, threats, repression, violence, to ‘make’ Catalans stay in Spain. The photos of Spanish police setting off for Catalonia whilst waving flags and playing the Spanish anthem have no place in democratic policing.
4. However much they deny it, Franco’s ghost is still in the room. The arrogant inflexible attitudes showed by all these parties, and the Spanish Establishment in general, as well as their policing methods, and subsequent denial of having used violence (really) all confirm that Francoist attitudes still run deep. Many members of the Spanish political and judicial establishment have direct links to Francoism, and many others seem to have learnt that this is how to behave. Forget dialogue, negotiations, listening to citizens, the role of the Spanish State is to control its citizens apparently.

La Rapita Roquetes