by RAONS PER LA REPÚBLICA
Imagine if you, me and your neighbour,
and the lady who lives on the fourth floor, and the baker, and the bus driver, and that stranger who goes through the traffic lights at the same time every morning, on his way to who knows where, and the mechanic and the lift technician, and the bar owner and the daughter of that friend you haven’t seen for a while, and your local GP, and the supermarket checkout guy, and the girl from the florist’s and lots and lots of other people all meet up one day to say: “That’s it! We’ve had enough! We don’t want any part of this corruption, of this deception, of this hate for Catalans, of this farce, of all these lies.” And we all decide to peacefully disobey the Spanish State, with non-violent actions of resistance. So we discuss why, how and when to implement them.
This civic, voluntary movement
that cuts across class and age barriers, and which doesn’t belong to any political party, is made up of ordinary workers, citizens and residents of all ages and walks of life who aim to build the Republic from the bottom up, with social foundations. The focus is on republican values, on the rolling out of full democracy; that is, ensuring that citizen participation in governmental decisions is as direct as possible.
They initially called themselves Referendum Defence Committees (CDRs)
and were set up to get around the myriad obstacles that the Spanish State placed in the way of holding the referendum. They guarded ballot boxes and voting slips. They kept polling stations open throughout the referendum weekend, organising civic activities for local residents. They put up peaceful resistance from the early hours of 1 October until the final vote count was completed, safeguarding people’s right to vote even when faced with police charges.
Once they made themselves known, in the aftermath of 1 October, they decided that the ‘R’ for Referendum would now stand for Republic and undertook the new task of helping to get the message of the Republic across during the campaign for the elections of 21 December. They also took part in a parallel vote count to ensure the transparency of the elections, given that some Republican leaders were in prison and others were in exile.
Those who don’t know or don’t belong to a CDR may easily get annoyed by actions that affect the rest of the population. “There they go again! Why are they blocking roads? Why are they organising go-slow road protests? Why are they organising demos?” It’s important to emphasis that all their actions are peaceful. However much inconvenience they cause, they can’t be tarred with the brush of violence. Some actions even benefit citizens directly, such as the lifting of motorway toll bars over Easter, which led to immediate complaints by Abertis, the motorway operator.
However, CDRs spend most of their time working on less visible and less tangible tasks:
- Organisation of talks to foster support for the Republic, explaining:
- the advantages of the Republic
- sustainable economy
- Placement of yellow ribbons at roadsides and in towns/cities.
- Placement of posters and banners, distribution of information leaflets highlighting the plight of the political prisoners and the lies propagated by the media, police, political parties and government of Spain.
- Organisation of a symbolic, travelling prison cell that visits squares across Catalonia. During the week-long event, the prison cell is assembled in the main square of the town
in question and volunteers take turns to be inside it, with the goal of raising citizen awareness. The cell is a replica of the real cells in which the political prisoners are held.
- Coordination with other organisations such as the National Assembly of Catalonia (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, platforms for the defence of social rights, students, feminist groups, immigrant groups, LGTB social movements, groups protesting about public transport price hikes, support groups for different groups involved in lawsuits (the “27 i més” student protest group, rappers, tweeters, journalists, puppeteers, etc.).
- Liaison work with local councils.
- Organisation of concerts and showings of documentaries that promote the values of the Republic and civil rights.
- Organisation of workshops and courses on peaceful resistance and dealing with repression, cybersecurity, sustainable economy, etc.
- Other neighbourhood activities that foster community spirit in our squares and streets.
- Organisation of talks to foster support for the Republic, explaining:
These actions, initiated by ordinary people, are organic, spontaneous and adapted to the needs of each area.
It doesn’t make much sense to refer to CDRs as entities either,
because in reality they’re groups of citizens who meet up on a voluntary basis; in fact, anybody can turn up to their open assemblies. They don’t have representatives either. CDRs are everybody and nobody at once. CDRs are on every street corner and nowhere at once. CDRs are about people and dignity.
Each CDR organises itself
and is independent of other CDRs, although sometimes they carry out coordinated actions to achieve a greater impact in the area. In large cities, they tend to be organised into districts and then grouped together into counties or zones. There’s also a national CDR but the independence of each group is respected. There are even international CDRs, in Germany, France, Belgium, Boston, etc. In addition to internationalising Catalan demands, they also helped in facilitating postal voting in the recent elections, an almost impossible task.
A few days ago, Spanish politicians and the State Prosecutor’s Office,
singing from the same hymn sheet as certain media outlets, began to publicly associate CDRs with violence and kale borroka (urban guerrilla actions by youths in the Basque country). Using false images, lies and exaggeration, they’re trying to create a false, premeditated current of opinion. The parallels drawn with the Basque conflict are clearly politically motivated, with the goal of criminalising CDRs. After leaving pro-Republic political parties and civil society organisations (ANC and Òmnium) leaderless, the Spanish government is keen to influence public opinion through the media in order to justify subsequent legal persecution. It also aims to embed the concepts of tumult and violence in the public conscience in order to protect the fallacy of rebellion enshrined in judge Llarena’s rulings
Nevertheless, this post-truth strategy fails to take into account that Catalans have been organising completely peaceful mass demonstrations involving millions of people since 2011. The peaceful so-called Vía Catalana (Catalan Way) stretched 400 km along the roads of Catalonia. We organised a peaceful referendum. It was so peaceful that we stoically put up with severe, disproportionate physical assaults. Those who voted “no” were also beaten. Those who didn’t go out to vote also saw it. The whole world saw it. And it’s etched on the retinas and in the
memory of millions of people. And it can’t be erased.
The custom of placing undercover police officers among peaceful demonstrators is also well known. By throwing objects, burning rubbish containers and directly attacking the police security cordon, these police officers try to provoke the most impulsive demonstrators into taking part in the violence, with the goal of arresting them. Fortunately, thanks to social networks and mobile devices, nowadays it’s easy to unmask these undercover officers. There are plenty of videos on Twitter and Facebook that clearly show who they are and how other demonstrators isolate them.
CDRs are the real engine of the Republic,
channeling ordinary people’s desire to live in peace in a country where the separation of powers exists, where there’s social assistance, where there are guaranteed decent pensions, where corruption is controlled and punished; in other words, in a democratic country.
As the jurist Elpidio José Silva says, “It’s not the CDRs that are anti-system but rather those who from within [public] institutions have ruined, dispossessed and evicted us. They windowdress democracy with the aim of bribing it, subjecting it to the most corrupt regime in Europe.”