By Contributing writer Liz Anusauskas
While climate activists are flooding the streets of America, there are dozens of other protests going on around the world. If I could talk about all of them in one coherent article, I would but instead, I’m simply going to write about the one closest to me- the Catalan crisis.
So… what’s up with those protests in Spain? The northeastern region of Spain is home to the Catalans who feel divided from the rest of Spain due to their differences in language, culture, and traditions. In the 1700s they enjoyed autonomy until King Felipe V took away their independence. From there, they had to wait until 1931, when Spain would become a republic, to become autonomous again. During the civil war they enjoyed a bit of privilege, but the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco took away all of their independence and the Catalans had to wait until 1979 (four years after Franco died and his dictatorship ended) to gain any sort of freedom back. They held onto the little power they gained back for a while and in 2006 were even described as a “nation”.During this time their freedoms also included the recognition of their unique language and government. In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court rejected the law passed in 2006 that clarified Catalan’s autonomous state. THIS was the beginning of the protests for Catalan. Then, in 2014 the Catalonians held a symbolic referendum on whether or not they would fully separate from Spain and the separatists won. Of course, this was declared a “fake” election after it was outlawed by the Spanish government. In October of 2017 Catalonian leaders held a real referendum in which 90% of voters supported dividing from Spain. However, it is important to note here that only 43% of the population voted and there was a boycott of the vote by union leaders. It’s hard for me to take any election seriously when less than half of the population votes, but considering the boycott and continued support for autonomy I have a feeling the results would have been similar without the boycott and with a bigger showing of voters.
The more important trigger to the current protests was the declaration of separation on October 27, 2017. Madrid leaders used emergency powers to automatically dissolve their parliament, take down their leaders, and call for another quick election on December 21st in which the separatists won by a much smaller margin. The Spanish leaders used their emergency powers to remove Catalonian leaders, despite the separatists’ victory.
Now for the recent protests, last week, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine leaders of the separatist movement to prison for anywhere between 9 and 13 years. They found them guilty of sedition due to their actions back in 2017 when they were trying to fully separate from Spain. All of these leaders have stated they will appeal the decision both to the Spanish Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights a bold but necessary action.
I watched the TV in my host mother’s home the day after this decision had gone public and we were both surprised at how quickly the situation escalated. The media was showing the same clip of fire over and over, but now that we know at least 600 people have been injured, we can be sure this isn’t just the media trying to make Catalan seem like they are in the wrong. Yes, the protests put people in harm’s way, but so does everything worth fighting for. The Catalonians have had a long and arduous journey in their fight for freedom, and I think that they deserve legitimacy and the right to try and cut a deal with the Spanish government to gain that autonomy.
It is clear that Catalans want independence. Not only do they want independence, but they are willing to fight, rally, and take to the streets to prove their dedication to the movement. This doesn’t come from persecution or genocide it comes from a unique culture, identity, and ideology that divide Spain and Catalan. Things are as peaceful as they are ever going to be right now so why not discuss solutions now?