Crackling news from Catalonia emerged this week as the supreme court of Spain decided on the fate of those democratically elected leaders who authorized a referendum on Catalonia’s independence. Nine ministers of the Catalan government were sentenced to nine to 13 years in prison for the crime of sedition, while three more were fined for disobedience. To be clear, the government of Spain’s classification of sedition in this case was allowing a referendum to go forward for Catalonians to vote on whether they wished to create their own republic or not. Essentially, 12 government officials are being punished for allowing the democratic process to take place.
In anticipation of this decision by the Spanish Supreme Court, Catalonians have engaged in marches, protests and demonstrations to get international attention for their plight, while showing solidarity across the region. One of their strategies has been banner drops in highly photographed places, harnessing the power of social media to disperse their message worldwide. In the town of Besalú, from a medieval bridge to the city, a banner reading in english “EUROPE WAKE UP! FREEDOM POLITICAL PRISONERS”greets tourists and locals alike. Meanwhile, dozens of flags of the Republic of Catalonia can be seen flying from the ramparts and ancient walls. Billboard sized gold letters, much like the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, stand simply declaring REPÚBLICA, visible from any approach to the citadel.
These bold statements of freedom and justice represent the town, in a place where over 96% of the citizens voted for independence, but throughout Catalonia, smaller, more personal statements of solidarity abound. The symbol of a yellow ribbon has taken on the meaning of a call from amnesty for the political prisoners of Catalonia held by Spain. The turned yellow bands are omnipresent, creating a constant reminder that Catalonia is a land under occupation.
Beyond these visible separatist statements and signs of solidarity, individuals, families and small businesses are uniting to effectuate change for themselves and their nation. On a small square ringed with shops and restaurants, a single tree, wrapped in the movement’s signature yellow, stood in the center. Nailed to the trunk, a homemade placard with the images of the arrested officials and those in exile read simply “FREEDOM”. Around that square, in every shop, and every cafe, tip jars and donation buckets were being collected for the legal expenses of the jailed leaders.
As a sister bioregional movement, Cascadia stands in solidarity with Catalonia is calling for the freedom of their Political Prisoners. In addition, there is much to be learned from the struggle Catalonia faces today. As we continue to watch how their fight for independence continues across the world, how can we as Cascadians build visibility for our cause? How can we build solidarity with the Catalonian movement? This week in Seattle, Cascadians and Catalonians came together with their voices, flags and posters to show that our collective desire for freedom doesn’t exist within a vacuum, but together we can amplify our causes. The Department of Bioregion encourages our members, supporters and all citizens to share statements of solidarity and stories of sovereignty. Together, let’s demand that the organizers of free elections anywhere live freely.