Police Abuse

Police Violence at Catalonia Vote Reveals Thuggish Nature of Government

This is what democracy looks like.

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Arnold Jerocki/News Pictures / Polaris/Newscom

The independence referendum in Catalonia was marred by violence yesterday as Spanish riot police stormed into polling stations to stop the vote. The regional government says more than 800 people were injured during the voting, mostly by police. Before the referendum, the national government made a concerted effort to prevent the vote from happening, with measures including the arrest of local officials, the occupation of local buildings, and the takeover of local police.

The right to self-determination is enshrined in international law and is core to democratic norms. In a democratic society, people have the power to choose their leaders, and that requires having the power to choose who you choose leaders with.

The Spansh government fears that a split by Catalonia could lead other regions, like the Basque country, to follow suit. That fear fueled the decision to crack down on the Catalan referendum. That crackdown, in turn, makes independence movements more popular—the national government's heavy-handed repression becomes a reason to free themselves from its grasp.

By contrast, devolution of power has given regions like Scotland, with strong cultural identities of their own, more ability to chart their own course. In turn, that has often lowered interest in independence movements.

The conflict between Catalonia and Spain also highlights the importance of constitutional systems that define the powers of the national government vis a vis the governments of its constituent parts—and the importance of a culture that respects those distinctions. Unfortunately, even in the United States, with a Constitution that attempts to severely limit federal power, the national government has grown tremendously more powerful since its founding.

Polls earlier this year showed support for independence in Catalonia at around 40 percent, although a majority supported a vote taking place. Independence ended up receiving more than 90 percent of the referendum vote.

Some video of the crackdown in Catalonia, via The Guardian:

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  1. I thought Scotland still had an active independence movement who is pissy over Brexit.

    They, laughably, think the EU would accept their broke ass into the EU after the UK leaves.

    1. They still do. Lowered interest doesn’t imply nonexistence.

  2. This looks much better than allowing the vote to happen and declaring the results irrelevant.

    1. Yeah, it’s like the government threw an emotional fit equivalent to boiling a rabbit. Didn’t they predict the terrible optics?

  3. To protect and to serve!

  4. “The right to self-determination is enshrined in international law”

    The link is to a highly hypocritical, double-standard-ish resolution in the UN General Assembly (which is not legislative or judicial body, just a talk shop). Basically, the point is for colonies to become independent. The UN, by the way, never tried to apply this to the Soviet empire. Just colonies of Western governments.

    In the midst of talk about self-determination of peoples, they stick this in:

    “Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

    In other words, self-determination of peoples for the “peoples” we like, not for the peoples we don’t like.

    1. ^THIS^

    2. national unity and the territorial integrity

      Ah. So Morocco, for example, is not-Spanish enough to leave Spain, but Catalonia is too Spanish to leave Spain. Which means that the position of the UN is that “peoples” have a right to self-determination only vis a vis other peoples who are different from them by a certain threshold. You know who else thought separate races should be kept in separate countries?

      1. Abradolf Lincler?

      2. Abraham Lincoln?

        (Funny to compare Lincoln, who wanted to send all blacks to Africa or Central America, with Jefferson Davis, who wanted to keep them in the US as slaves. Which was more humane?)

        1. The prior is way less repugnant. You could arguing staying here worked out in the long run, but slavery is pretty damn bad.

      3. J.R.R. Tolkien?

      4. A failed Austrian painter and dog lover?

    3. Doesn’t the U.N. mostly agree that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist?

  5. Again, secession is a morally-neutral tool which is good if it promotes the cause of good government and civil liberties, but bad if it creates a repressive country which stomps on minorities.

    1. Yes. The idea that nation states have any rights, even the right to exist as independent entities is not quite right. Individuals have rights. States do not.

    2. Totally agree. Or put differently, secession is only a morally positive tool if it is respected down to the individual’s right to secede from his neighborhood.

        1. I also support a cat’s right to secede her favorite sunning spot from the rest of the living room.

    3. Even bad states have the right to secede, as long as they allow free emigration.

  6. The USA settled the matter of secession from the modern nation-state once and for all back in 1865:
    It is simply not allowed unless the national government permits it.

    1. -1 Timor Leste
      -1 South Sudan
      +1 Tibet

    2. That was a fairly complicated situation…you know what, I think I’ll just back away.

      1. Get of my lawn…..and stay outta my hegderow too!

    3. It is simply not allowed unless the national government permits it.

      IOW, it’s not allowed unless it’s allowed.

      Even with all the talk of international law, when it comes to interactions or independence of or for nation states, it all comes down to might makes right. That always has been and always will be the case. Nothing to do with the Civil War.

    4. Yeah, because if South Carolina voted to secede now, the Feds would send in the tanks and B2 bombers? You don’t need permission to form your own government. It’s a basic human right, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Just because Lincoln crushed a secessionist movement with military might and the secessionists in that case were bad people doesn’t mean the issue is settled.

  7. I would agree that the Spanish government has no right in forcibly preventing people from expressing their opinion. However, whether or not Spain has to give legal credence to the results of that vote is a different story.

    I have always had very mixed feelings regarding this whole idea of secession and which smaller groups can leave a union. If Catalonia can vote to leave Spain, can the northwest enclave for the deaf and blind of greater upper Catalonia vote to leave Catalonia and return to Spain? What about if the Rodriguez family wishes to keep their house as part of Spain? What if Juan Gutierrez wants to keep his apartment as part of Spain?

    IOW: At what size of majority, does majority win?

    1. IOW: At what size of majority, does majority win?

      One would think with all the ‘investment’, wealth generation, and money printing that the government does, it wouldn’t be a zero sum game. That Catalonians could finagle some rights here while the Spanish Monarchy/Government agreed to help out with the northwest enclave for the deaf and blind of greater upper Catalonia.

      Juan ‘Ratfucker’ Gutierrez may be out of luck though.

    2. Yes. Yes. Yes. Majority should never trample individual rights.

    3. Secession ‘wins’ when the people seceding are willing and able to defend it.

      The United States was formed by the ‘illegal’ act of rebelling against the notion of the divine right of kings.

      There was no ‘lawful process’ that the colonial peoples could follow. They made their statement of independence and when the Kings-men tried to force them to abandon that heretic thought, the colonists fought to enforce their statement of independence, and with a little bit of help were successful.

      In the grand scheme of things, nothing has changed other than instead of divine right of kings, its now the divine right of states. Nation states are no more willing to accept that peoples have the right to alter or abolish a government today than they were 200+ years ago.

    4. Why not let everyone join the government of their choosing?
      Geographical confines were needed in the primitive past. We can track things much better now.

  8. I hope Ed waited for the memo that this Catalonia take is “Okay” or he might meet the fate of a forgotten staffer who dared criticize the TPP.

  9. Black Blocs stay up late at night trying to think up new and better ways to instigate police brutality and get it on camera for public consumption. The police in Catalonia just gave all that away for free.

    Images of abuse like that are game changers. It’s like when the Abu Ghraib torture photos were first released on the internet. If you’d asked me the day before those photos were released if it were possible to create sympathy for terrorists, I would have said “no”. I was so wrong.

    The same kind of thing is going on with that story out of Egypt, where a band with an openly gay singer was playing and someone in the crowd broke out a rainbow LGBT flag. Social media went nuts, and now the authorities are coming down hard on the guys who unfurled the flag. That’s an excellent way to start a full blown, LGBT rights movement.

    Is there anyone who doubts that the modern gay rights movement in the U.S. started that way, with police brutality at the Stonewall Inn?

    If the Spanish government had stayed up all night trying to think of new and better ways to encourage separatism for Catalonia, they could hardly have come up with a better strategy than getting the police on camera beating the shit out of people who want their independence.

    1. KS-
      They even beat up fire fighters in uniform who tried to get between the national police and the crowd. If it could make the national government look bad, they did it.

  10. Voting to secede does not require permission from the larger political entity. Who are they to stop some of the residents of their country from expressing their opinion and peacefully forming a new political entity?

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