Fuck tha Police, Basque style
According to Freemuse’s 2018 State of Artistic Freedom report, Spain tops the global table for artistic censorship, with more musicians imprisoned for their lyrical content than in China, Iran, Turkey or Russia. Spanish authorities have used anti-terrorism, lèse-majesté and hate crime legislation to suppress freedom of speech. The Spanish monarchy, political class and security forces are particularly sensitive to mockery and criticism.
The latest case involves the song O.V.N.I. by Navarran punk group, Josetxu Piperrak & The Riber Rock Band. The Barañáin magistrate’s court has ruled that the song is “offensive and derogatory” to Spain’s paramilitary police force, the Civil Guard, and forced the label, El Dromedary Records S.L., to withdraw the song from sale. The lawsuit was filed by the police association, JUCIL (Justice for the Civil Guard). The band members did not attend the hearing and will be sued through the criminal courts.
Ironically, the song, released in November, 2018, came to many people’s attention on 1 February, 2019, thanks to a video filmed in a police van and uploaded by a Civil Guard officer. He was playing the song in the background as he mocked the people lining the road outside Lledoners prison in the send-off for the nine Catalan leaders in pre-trial imprisonment, on their way to Madrid to stand trial in the Supreme Court on rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges.
The song is an extended metaphor in which the Civil Guard are aliens circulating in their spacecraft.
They’re from another galaxy, another civilization
And they can’t be human ’cause they have no heart
O.V.N.I. is a Spanish acronym meaning “objeto volador no identificado“, equivalent to the English, U.F.O. In the song O.V.N.I. means “objeto verde nada inteligente” – unintelligent green object – in reference to Civil Guard vehicles patrolling the Basque Country.
The song makes reference to one Spain’s most recent miscarriages of justice, the case of eight young people from Altsasu-Alsasua, Navarre, jailed for between two and thirteen years for a bar brawl with off-duty Civil Guard officers.
They turn a bar fight into terrorism
It also references the Civil Guard’s abuse of authority, stop and search policy, the fact that they come from other areas of Spain, in particular Andalusia, and are posted in barracks like occupying soldiers. It insults their intelligence, too.
They’re the Civil Guard,
They find reading and writing very, very hard
The original video contains clear references to the “Let them leave” (Que se vayan – Alde Hemendik) campaign started in 1978 by Euskadiko Ezkerra, urging the withdrawal of the Civil Guard from the Basque Country.
Here is the song with subtitles in English:
And here is the song with subtitles in Spanish:
The lyrics in English:Josetxu-Piperrak-the-Riber-Rock-Band-UFO-Unintelligent-Green-Object
The lyrics in Spanish:Josetxu-Piperrak
This could now be a case of a double Streisand effect. First the song came to the attention of many because of a Civil Guard’s dark sense of humour, and now its banning by a Navarran court will only popularise it further. More great work from the Spanish police and judiciary. Freedom of speech in Spain is at a very low ebb, comparable only with the world’s most authoritarian regimes.