October 1st 2017— Catalonia Freedom Referendum
The view of the people that overcame an oppressive state and organized a referendum against the will of the rulers.
That day, I almost spent the all night awake. I wanted to spend the night in the referendum polling station, like nearly all my close neighbors, but it was not possible. My little girl was sick. A kindergarten sickness, a hard one, aggravated by the pollution of Barcelona. If you are a parent, you know what it means.
I had the TV turned on all the night. One image was repeated over and over again: two cruisers in the Barcelona port filled with Spanish policemen and tens or hundreds of Spanish police vehicles. All of them sleeping. All those policemen who came to Barcelona under the song of “A por ellos” (Go for them). Many people told me that they could not imagine what happened that day. I do not know how, but I had a clear picture of what they were planning to do. Those policemen came to Barcelona singing “A por ellos”, just like a gang. Even worse, they friends and families in Spain said goodbye with the same song. They did not expect less from them. While I was watching those images, I hoped, and hoped to someone place a truck, a container, whatever, to cut their pass. Or if someone accidentally left the “Porta de Barcelona” bridge opened, they could not pass. It did not happen; hundreds or thousands of Spanish policemen entered the city.
The TV was not the only thing that you could follow that night. You had the street. After 5am, people started moving down here. People talking, people singing, people playing with their children. All of them going to the polling station right at the corner. It was inspiring, it was the opposite feeling that was coming from the TV. People with one objective, people with one voice, people wanting to be heard. It was like mermaid songs for me, I felt that I should be there, that I should not stay at home.
Around 8 o’clock, I arrived at the polling station. My duties with my family were the health of my childhood, but also their future. I was wearing a raincoat. It was raining, and I was planning to spend all the day in front of the polling station door. It is difficult to explain, the ambient had mixed feelings. There were hundreds of people, all of them full of illusion, but also full of fear. We talked, we sang, and we organize ourselves to protect the polling station.
And what we feared that could happen, happened. People start to shout to move children and old people to the inside of the building. They moved quickly. People got nervous. The silence fell.
At least four vans of the Catalan police stopped just by our polling station. We all suddenly started to intertwine all arms, creating several layers between police and the polling station. No words, no sounds, no songs, just our breath. Or breath and the rain. The two policemen walked towards the door and asked: “Who is the responsible here?”, we all responded in unison: “We are.” The policemen ordered us to shut down the polling station and return home; we said no. After waiting a few minutes, probably after they reported the situation and got instructions, they left.
We felt relief, we thought that it was all. That it was finished, and we could resume with our ordinary lives. With almost no time to unwind, the sound of a helicopter approaching remembered us that someone else was watching us: the Spanish police. For some reason, the Spanish Government forbade all flights above Barcelona, and for some reason, they also decided to rule the Spanish police troops directly, although the law said that all police forces in Catalonia are coordinated by the Catalan police. We had another police force to worry about. The helicopter from the Spanish police spotted us, it began to fly in circles around us.
Everyone got quiet again, we returned to our positions and stayed. Just a few minutes later, people start to scream. Eight Spanish police vans were approaching toward us from the next street. Terribly afraid, we tried to keep our positions and remain quiet. The eight Spanish police vans began to advance to our polling station. They started to slow down. Somehow, they do not see the assault clear, and they passed. They resumed their travel and went to some other place. We felt lucky. We breathed again and relaxed.
By then I lived near a hospital, it was just 5~10 minutes walking. That means that some of the people who were with us that day were nurses, doctors, and surgeons. We were all just getting comfortable when we start to see ambulances passing by our polling station. Inside each ambulance: a driver and physician, both were wearing helmets. At that moment, we began to be terrified again. We had never seen something like that before. And worse, all of us were capable of reading the face of the hospital workers.
The referendum organizers announced the same day something called: “Universal Census,” in other words: you can vote at any polling station. An online application checked if you could vote or if you had already voted. Of course, using the Internet. And of course, the Internet was shut down in all polling stations by the Spanish Government. Polling stations ask volunteers, they were looking for mobile phones able to share a connection to the Internet. I do not know If you have been ever in a big demonstration, but mobile data is the first thing that you lose. To help to proceed, the rest of us put their mobile phones in airplane mode. We cut down our channel of communication with the rest of the world. Slowly, the voting could proceed.
It took more than one hour, but we finally got somehow relaxed. People start voting. The Spanish police helicopter circled us some more times, it was scary, but I do not know how, we got used to that feeling. That did not last. New people coming, and they started to told us terror stories about other polling stations. Suddenly, there was a moment of tension: we saw arriving walking two Catalan police officers. They stopped in the other side of the street and watched the situation. Meanwhile, more and more people were coming and lining up. The queue got so long that it surrounded all the block.
At 12am, it was full of people. I decided to take a break and go home to lunch. I ate, I went to the town where I lived when I was a child, and I voted. And I saw the TV. I could not believe what I was seeing. I will spare you of the exact images of violence and blood, but you can find them here. After seeing those images, I remembered something that I heard about the US Independence: it is not the privilege of the people, but the obligation to cut with oppressive governments. I hoped the Catalan government to show up and declare the independence immediately, remove the unlawful Spanish police, and protect their people. Nothing but wishful thinking, soon I realized that no government will ever do what we, the people, must do it. I returned to the polling station. At that time there were, at least, more than 5 thousand votes to protect, and more than 5 thousand votes that the Spanish police wanted to steal.
The afternoon was long. Really long. And quiet. The queue shrunk, but it did not disappear. We all continued afraid. It was difficult, but we stayed. We started to talk between us, and for the first time, first videos from Spanish police make us laugh instead of a scare.
It was scheduled to close polling stations at 8pm. But most of us wanted to close it earlier, count the votes, and leave. At 7pm we just start thinking in the Spanish police, coming and stealing all our votes. That seemed a good plan, let people got tired, let people leave thinking that they had voted, and then, steal all the votes at once. But we were counting minutes. People still arriving to vote, and the queue did not shrink. The sunset arrived, the night came, but streetlamps did not light up. We were thinking: why they keep the streetlights off? What are they planning? We kept uneasy.
The 8pm arrived. It was dark. The polling station closed. And votes were still pending to count. We suddenly realized that closing the voting poll did not solve the problem. At any moment, the Spanish police could come and steal all our votes. And worst, it was dark, really dark. There still was no light on the streets. We hardly saw one each other. The end never seemed to arrive, seconds felt minutes, minutes hours. Each minute without the police coming felt a victory. Everyone was quiet. And suddenly, the door of the polling station opened.
A really long day seemed to arrive at its end. Hours and hours, minutes and minutes, of anxiety, alarm, and fear finished. We heard the results of the polling station, We sang, we celebrated, “We have voted.” And we started to return home.
We felt finally safe. But we were not. The polling station was crowded, so crowded that we were across all the street: in the sidewalk, in the top of the green area, and even on the roadway. Abruptly a car appeared, start to shout out “Viva España” and pressed the accelerator to the bottom. We were lucky, really lucky, just at the beginning of the trajectory of the car were the two Catalan police officers. One of them instantaneously jump to the driver’s window, got the steering wheel, and took control of the vehicle. It was incredible that no one got hurt, that anonymous Catalan officer deserved a medal. He got the car in control and drove it out safely. I do not know what happened with the driver. But I am glad that we resisted, and we achieved our objective.
We voted on the 1st of October for our freedom.
Yes to Independence: 2,044,039 (90.18%)
No to Independence: 177,547 (7.83%)
Blank votes: 44,913 (1,98%)
Null votes: 19,719
Estimated votes stolen by police: 770,0001,066 Hospital reports of injured people by policemen.
1 Mutilated person by policemen.