BARCELONA, Spain — The proclamation of independence by the Catalan Republic last week was a historic milestone. It demonstrated that the Catalan government, with the support of the public, has one priority — freedom for a people who are being prohibited from deciding their future. It didn’t seem to matter to the Spanish government, though, that most Catalans wanted a peaceful, democratic vote to establish their independence.
For years, we Catalonians have been enduring a sustained effort against our self-government. This became even more evident after the Oct. 1 referendum on independence, with rushed legislative actions to encourage firms to move out of Catalonia, as well as direct pressure on large companies to leave.
This damage to Catalan society is part of a longstanding strategy of the Spanish government. It has handed down arbitrary and capricious policy decisions. The Constitutional Court has suspended every one of the initiatives of the Catalan government. Whether the issues involve gender equality, energy or the economy, everything has been cut down at the behest of the Popular Party government in Madrid.
Many times and in many ways we have tried to speak out for our rights, but the Spanish government has never listened; we have always found the same wall of incomprehension and rejection. The Spanish government wants only servile obedience. This is why it tried to stop the referendum through the indiscriminate use of batons, threats and coercion.
We believed that if we voted for independence peacefully, the Spanish government would listen to us. But we were answered only by violence — delivered both by people in uniforms and by extreme right-wing groups that have acted with complete impunity. Beating people up in the name of ideas now seems to be lawful.
Supporters of Catalan independence wear flags in Barcelona, Spain, last month. Credit Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images