‘Mossos’ wreak havoc

I knew what I was letting myself in for when I went to protest in front of the Spanish Government Delegation in in c. Mallorca, Barcelona, but I was surprised by the level and extent of the police violence. It was 1-O all over again, but with a different uniform dishing out the pain. When I reached one of the adjacent streets at 7.30 pm there was already a massive crowd and a line of assortedly sized police in full riot gear blocking access with vans at the ends of the lines parked against the walls serving as make-shift changing rooms and communications centres. About 40 metres back was another police blockade with more vans and reinforcements – the much feared Mobile Brigades – the ABM, the Brimo or Dragons as they like to call themselves. The random uncoordinated cosmopolitan crowd was in generally good spirits and not exclusively young. You could see how the police action might unfold and wondered how aware everyone else was.

The police wore full body armour with half-open visors. The occasionally successful missiles just bounced off. I wanted to be at the front to see them close up and to look them in the eyes. You learn a lot about attitude and emotion from the look and the body language. It can even serve as a random drug test. I felt the nervousness was inappropriate to the threat. Some seemed pumped up and others twitchy as they reacted to the bursts of chanting and flying litter by tapping their sticks against gloved hands and padded uniforms. There was even a dextrous baton twirl from time to time. Some made brusque forward movements, jutting chins and occasionally taunting the mainly very young people that faced them down at the front.

On several occasions during the build-up, the police broke their lines to deliver short volleys of blows to their generally tender tormentors. This was a little bit of fun before the main event. They were entertaining themselves while waiting for the word ‘Go!’. The surge from behind that got me my first beating followed a countdown started by someone and taken up by others that left me unable to get out and unprepared to go forward. Fortunately, the surge abated as the police advanced into the crowd swinging their batons hard, fast and low. The high shots came later.

Then the order came and they charged at the crowd that was completely under control. It soon became obvious that they weren’t stopping at anything this time, as they moved forward lashing out at anyone in their way who wasn’t dropping back quickly enough. People stumbled and were briefly beaten on the ground. Everyone ran, but I ran into a parked car and was trapped. I received five or six blows, held out my arms as if to say ‘Come on!’ and he let me go.

After the main charge to disperse the crowd, I saw one of the boys from the front with blood pouring down his face as he hurried away. I tried to help him, but he was scared. His friends were nowhere to be seen. Like lots of people, he’d ended up on his own. A fit bronzed man, late-30s early 40s, in sportswear with a rucksack, caught up with me, asked after the injured youth and where he’d gone. I think he might have been plain-clothes police and one of the few people arrested had a head wound, but I’ll never know.

The crowd dropped back. At the next intersection some people formed a makeshift barrier from rubbish containers, but most had fled in panic. Someone set fire to one of the bins. When the unimpressive barrier almost blocked the street the vans arrived, tearing through it, smashing it out of the way, sending it flying. People were running in all directions now. Accelerating down the street, the police drivers aimed the vehicles at fleeing people. Anyone unable to get out of the way would be run over. Anyone stumbling could be killed. They performed high-speed U-turns at the end of the first sweep and circled back to where they’d come from. Vans appeared from the opposite direction.

They had dispersed the crowd in minutes, though it seemed like an eternity. The vans continued to circle, stopping when they came across now small groups of people to dish out a bit more justice with their batons, and move on. Their victims could have been demonstrators, tourists or locals.

When they say 90 were injured including 22 ‘Mossos’, I wonder how the 22 managed it. Falling over? It isn’t difficult to beat up unprepared retreating demonstrators. They say that there were many Civil Guard and National Police dressed as Mossos; for sure. That the crowd was heavily infiltrated; of course it was. That not everyone filming and taking pictures was a journalist; they never are. That infiltrated police were targetting demonstrators; obviously. That others were acting as agents provacateurs, winding up the crowd and escalating the violence their colleagues had started themselves; undoubtedly. This is how the police work. This is how they’ve always worked. It should come as no surprise to anyone. The new hispanicised Mossos are a monstruous creation capable of doing great damage and wreaking havoc. I would warn anyone considering demonstrating close to police lines to be fully aware of how violent and dangerous this police force currently is, and the risks they run going anywhere near them.

The police operation of 25 March in Barcelona was well-planned, totally deliberate, extremely violent, completely disproportionate and totally unnecessary. The police had a great time; they were up for it. The demonstrators were not, and took a terribly beating. Judge Pablo Llarena is the facilitator who has provided the flexible definition of ‘violently’ and ‘violence’. Now Zoido and Llarena can pretend the independence movement is violent. The narrative was ready beforehand and yesterday’s operation was designed to ‘prove’ it. I’m sure the soundbites had been scripted before a baton was raised, just as Llarena had scripted Friday’s rulings days in advance of hearing a word from the political defendants who are now political prisoners.

Catalans are not allowed to express anger, not allowed to react. No matter how hard you beat them, no matter how much they suffer, every Catalan is expected to put Gandhi to shame. These standards aren’t applied to other peoples.

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