In Catalonia, there exists the disturbing phenomenon of hooded and masked gangs roaming the streets carrying knives and other tools to cut down yellow ribbons and destroy posters or banners calling for justice, freedom and democracy. There are small groups vandalising symbolic Catalan sites, chopping down historic trees, sawing down flagpoles, firing air rifles at balconies with Estelades, attacking Catalan institutions, burning down cultural centres, graffitiing Spanish nationalist and far-right symbols everywhere and assaulting people wearing yellow. Normally, such attacks take place under cover of darkness. Most group members don’t want to be recognised. As most of the time they’re committing offences when they go on one of their covert vandalic operations, obscurity is probably wise.
One such group calls itself ‘The Reapers’ in a clear reference to the Catalan national anthem, but these furtive vandals and hooligans are catalanophobes, their use of the word ‘reapers’ is cultural appropriation, and what they do is motivated by hate. It’s interesting when we discover who they are precisely because they’ve tried to conceal their identities. Paid or not, they’re an intimidatory and aggressive force whose only purpose is destruction. Their number includes Ciudadanos Senate candidates, Partido Popular and Ciudadanos councillors, university professors, Nazi thugs, biker gangs, skinheads, etc.
While believing themselves to be a repressed minority, victims of Catalanism, they claim at the same time to represent a majority of Catalan civil society. Obviously, you can’t have it both ways. They are so infuriated by these calls for justice, freedom and democracy that they use weapons, hide behind hoods, balaclavas and ski masks, and insult and threaten anyone who questions their actions. They are anonymously doing their bit in the countrywide repression of freedom of speech by trying to silence their fellow citizens, those who believe in something they do not. Though they see themselves as activists, they’re repressing their neighbours by enforcing their own version of Article 155 on the streets of Catalonia. The unionist parties are supportive of their criminal effort.
There are still so many fascists in Spain, and Catalonia is no different. In fact, it’s one of the worst places in Spain and always has been. Supporters of anti-Catalan(ist) Ciudadanos, anti-Catalan civil society Societat Civil Catalana, and anti-Catalan far-right groups represent a significant minority in Catalan society. However, it’s the most violent and destructive part, the most negative and deluded part, the part that defends this indefensible Spanish government, that applauds human rights abuses and the repression of fellow citizens, that celebrates the false imprisonment of colleagues, that cheers the persecution and prosecution of secessionists, and which only takes to the streets to destroy something, or somebody.
It’s Spanish nationalism, a pure brand of mindless majoritarianism, the sickness of Spanish society: the hate, the cruelty, the arrogance, the abuse, the supremacy and supremacism, and the violence. When unionists bleat about being pointed at, getting funny looks, and people not being nice to them, they ignore how offensive their defence of 155 is to its victims and how divisive this would be in any society. Just as the violence is coming from them, so is the division. They also betray their oversensitivity and insecurity by overreacting to criticism. The funny looks are nothing compared to being imprisoned for your beliefs and to complain so loudly about it shows a complete lack of perspective. If you support the imprisonment of your political rivals, who are also your colleagues, you’re a miserable human being and the least you deserve are a few funny looks.
Importantly, none of this violence has been met with violence, which is what makes those that choose to go incognito when out on an anti-Catalan raid so cowardly. Nor will their activities result in prosecution, something now reserved only for dissidents. It says a lot about the situation in Catalonia, and Spain, right now. Offence is taken at all messages claiming justice, freedom and democracy regardless of whether it has a secessionist message. The imagined or invented violence of certain ideas and symbols is the excuse for real violence at every level of Spanish nationalism.
It’s the same persecution executed by the National Police, the Ministry of Interior and the king at last weekend’s cup final. It’s the same nonsense from the streets to the courthouses, and in Congress itself: a colour and a ribbon are criminalised as expressions of an ideology and identity. The colour has come to symbolise justice, freedom and democracy for the movement so hated of Spanish nationalists, but what did it symbolise before? “On the one hand, yellow stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, intellect, honour, loyalty, and joy, but on the other, it represents cowardice and deceit.” This definition seems about right.