Diaspora: Human Rights Watch perspective on police violence and the Catalan referendum, one year later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the 2017 Catalonia independence referendum — a day on which millions of Catalans, expressing themselves peacefully, were met with violence by Spanish police and security services.

To mark the occasion, we are pleased to launch Diaspora, the podcast of the Catalonia America Council (CAC). In our inaugural episode we spoke with Kartik Raj of Human Rights Watch.

Kartik is the author of last year’s HRW report which found Spanish police used excessive force during the 2017 independence referendum. During the tumultuous days following the referendum, he traversed Catalonia, interviewing scores of people as he investigated. One year later, we sat down with him to get his thoughts on the report, and his impressions of those impactful days. You can find the podcast here.

Photo by Jordi Borràs

The CAC is grateful to A Sound of Thunder for their permission to use Els Segadors (The Reapers) during the introduction to the podcast.

Free Catalan activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the controversial Spanish civil guard police raids on the Catalan government offices and subsequent civil society protests which were sparked as a reaction to them. The date is important because it is the basis for which two respected Catalan civil society leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, have been languishing in pre-trial detention since October 16th, 2017, charged with rebellion and sedition.

The charges against both men are absurd by any measure. Throughout their careers as activists and organizers, both have made civil, respectful protest their mantra. Since 2012, massive annual national day protests of a million people in Catalonia, coordinated by their respective organizations, have been impeccably peaceful and civic, taking place without incident or violence of any kind.

Contrary to the narrative — led by much of the Spanish media — of the two leaders whipping up crowds and inciting them to impede judicial investigations, video evidence clearly shows both men taking charge to calm a spontaneous protest, dedicating hours to assuring that authorities could finish their work. Despite the fact that investigators were able to complete their work as instructed, and that protests remained peaceful throughout the day, judicial authorities have maintained the charges against both, facing 15 to 30 years in prison should they be convicted.

International organizations such as Amnesty International and PEN International have condemned their incarceration and call for their release, as have the Catalan Ombudsman’s office and a group of a thousand lawyers and legal scholars.

The Catalonia America Council adds its name to that list, calling for their immediate release.

Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Cuixart are men of peace and dialogue. They are exactly the kind of people needed to help resolve the Catalan quest for the right to decide its political future and mend relations with Spain. Their place is out in the public square debating these issues for the greater good, not in jail.


Announcing the creation of the Catalonia America Council (CAC)

We are proud to announce the creation of the Catalonia America Council (CAC), an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit organization which promotes dialogue and collaboration between North America and Catalonia.

The CAC aims to build from a strong set of shared values that define the transatlantic relationship.  These include political values rooted in freedom, democracy and self-government, and a common entrepreneurial spirit which drives innovation and economic success.

The current political and social contexts on both sides of the Atlantic clearly shows how we cannot take these values for granted.  In this spirit, the CAC will engender debate and discussion of the critical challenges facing the transatlantic community in Catalonia and America–from democracy to civil rights, and from public policy to trade and investment.  We will also seek to encourage and promote transatlantic exchange, giving policymakers, think tanks, academic institutions, and relevant non-profit organizations and journalists opportunities to connect, collaborate and build stronger relationships.

We believe that, in order to address common challenges and promote common interests, our active engagement is more important now than ever before.  The CAC commits itself to addressing these issues directly, with openness, rigor and clarity. 

The Catalonia America Council is organized and operated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, DC, and is funded entirely by private donations.  With your support, we aspire to make the Catalonia America Council a powerful voice for our shared values. Thank you for joining us in this important mission.

Yours sincerely,

The Catalonia America Council
info @ catalanamerican . org