September 28, 1700 hrs.
The Spanish government has enough problems to attend to already. Catalonia is in revolt, a financial coup is looming and the people in the streets are menacing to storm parliament. But the worst was yet to come… Mohammed cartoons!
These days, American and Spanish embassies are in alert after the satiric magazine El Jueves published the drawn images of five bearded figures on their front page, and the question ‘Does anybody know what Mohammed really looks like?’
It provides some comic relief, but let’s be serious. Spain’s government really does have big problems. They are bracing for financial bail-out by already adopting the austerity measures which will be imposed. This way they can sell it to nationalists as a measure that was taken out of sovereign free will.
The Catalans are treated with gloves for the moment. To avoid open conflict, Madrid calls for national unity in dealing with this economic crisis. Even the king pronounced himself in these terms lately.
As for the people in the streets, the government’s strategy is more complex. And it’s important to understand it. You have to be able to reason like the enemy if you want to beat him.
For one, they have been smoking out pits of resistance for months. Squats and social centres have been evicted by the dozens. At the moment there is only one social centre left in downtown Madrid.
For two, police brutality. The pictures of police officers firing at a crowd and clubbing seated citizens off the asphalt should be enough to scare the more fragile portions of the population out of participating in demonstrations.
For three, the treatment of the detainees. Last Tuesday they arrested 36 people, the ones they could lay their hands on. And now they want them to fry.
The Legal commission of Acampada Sol, which assists the detainees, has denounced the disproportionate violence with which they were arrested, and the degrading way with which they were said to be treated in prison. Like not being allowed to sit or to urinate, like being forced to crouch for a sustained period of time, etc.
Furthermore, there has been a legal farce going on for two days. The detainees should have been either released or charged after 24 hours. Initially, they would have been charged for vandalism. But under pressure from the ministry of the interior the charges were changed to ‘assault on the higher institutions of the state’. In other words, they were treated as if they had staged a coup, or planted bombs. Five years in prison, three if they’re lucky.
The court said it had no authority to rule on these charges. This would be a case of the high court.
The reaction of the high court judge to whom the charges were forwarded, was more or less this: ‘You must be joking.’ And he sent it back to the lower court.
The lower court, under continuous pressure from authorities, reiterated the charges. ‘No really, these people are a danger for the security of the state.’
Why? you will ask, on the basis of what are these people to be judged as terrorists. The answer is that five of them were caught tearing away one of the barriers protecting parliament. And the law states that anyone who attempts to interrupt the normal functioning of congress can be sentenced to five years in prison.
There is only one small flaw in the charges. The people didn’t try to get access to parliament. Even admitting they jumped the barriers, they only tried to gain access to the public road.
Adding to the farce, all but one of the detainees have been released without bail. Would any government allow a presumed danger for the state to be out on the streets after 48 hours without bail?
It all comes down to pure intimidation. The message is that when you protest you risk being beaten, and if you get caught, you risk jail time.
At the moment it’s unclear what exact charges the 36 are facing. They have become pawns in a game of manipulation.
However dirty of a tactic this may be, we shouldn’t get too indignant about the strategy of the authorities. After all, this movement is revolutionary. We demand an end to the Spanish state as we know it. We want a constituent assembly to write a new constitution, we want those politicians who have abused their power to be brought to justice. As such, we really are a danger for the state. And the primary necessity of the state, like for any other organism, is to survive. They will resort to any means necessary in order to do so.
The popular reaction can only be one of unity and solidarity. If those 36 detainees have assaulted the higher institutions of the state, then we all have, and we should all be equally judged for it.