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Local authorities take yellow ribbon row to next level

Councils around Catalonia come up with imaginative solutions to get around orders to remove "partisan" symbols from public buildings

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31 March 2019 11:59 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

The electoral authority may have ordered the removal of yellow ribbon symbols in support of Catalan independence leaders on trial in Spain's Supreme Court from the front of public buildings, but some local councils are refusing to give in without a fight.

The precedent was set by president Quim Torra last week. When forced to comply with the authority's order to remove the yellow ribbon banner from the front of the government building, he had the yellow ribbon replaced by a white one, but with the same message.

Although complying with the strict wording of the order, which ruled that the yellow ribbons were "partisan" symbols, a second order demanded he also remove the white ribbon banner, which he eventually did, replacing it with a message in support of freedom of expression.

Some local councils also ordered to remove their yellow ribbon symbols from town hall buildings have gone further, replacing the banners with others that express disapproval or quite simply poke fun at the whole absurdity of a situation that has arguably got out of hand.

"You get my meaning"

An example is the Sant Fruitós de Bages local authority, which complied with the order to remove its yellow ribbon banner, but replaced it with another that read: "We have taken down what was approved by 85% of the municipal chamber."

Yet, the icing on the cake was adding posters featuring Fairy washing-up liquid bottles with the knowing message: "You get my meaning." Fairy went viral on social media after a testimony in the independence trial accused some voters of using the liquid soap to cause Spanish police officers to slip and fall during their attempts to stop the independence referendum in 2017.

"Freedom for peaceful fish"

Another example is the Port de la Selva local council, which replaced its yellow ribbon banner with another featuring a blue ribbon and the message: "Freedom for peaceful fish." Yet, the electoral authority failed to see the humor and ordered this banner removed, too.

The "grotesque attempt at mockery" -in the words of the authority- had been the idea of local people, but they asked the council to remove it as ordered rather than face legal repercussions, but intend to re-hang the banner on a nearby building.

Cs: " We can now have free and clean elections"

The Ciutadans party (Cs), which has been sniffing out yellow ribbons still on public buildings with all the assiduity of a beagle, and then referring the councils in question to the authority, declared itself satisfied that the Alt Empordà region was now clear of the symbols.

According to the local Cs party, only seven councils had appealed the authority's order, with the others all complying. Yet, local party spokesman, Héctor Amelló, said that his party "will continue working to have free and clean elections."

For this too, there is a precedent, as after president Torra finally complied with the authority's order last week, Cs immediately filed a complaint about another yellow ribbon it had spied in an interior patio of the government building, which was then also duly taken down.

Yet, despite the onslaught of official complaints and judicial orders, some local councils in Catalonia continue to look for a solution that will allow them to comply with the order out without giving up on their strongly-held principles.

"A white banner on the building's facade"

One such is the Sant Cugat del Vallès local council, which this week came up with its own solution that involved reversing its yellow ribbon banner so that the symbol is no longer visible but the banner remains in place on the front of the town hall.

With just minutes until the deadline for the banner's removal ran out, mayor Carmela Fortuny had the offending article removed, and then put back up again, but the other way round, so that "at the moment there is a white banner on the building's facade," she said.

While insisting she has no intention of being suspended in her post, because she wants to "continue working in defense of the republic and for the freedom of the political prisoners," for the moment her solution allows the public "to have this symbol on its retina without the need to read the phrase that the authority has banned," she added.

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  • 'Free Peaceful Fish', an ironic message after yellow ribbons were forbidden in Catalonia (by ACN)

  • 'Free Peaceful Fish', an ironic message after yellow ribbons were forbidden in Catalonia (by ACN)