A tough day for the Catalan police
Judge accuses Mossos d’Esquadra of “inactivity” as some officers join with firefighters to protect public against Spanish police violence
Sunday was a tough day for Catalonia’s police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. As thousands of Catalans turned out to vote in a referendum on independence declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court, the Mossos were ordered to stop the voting.
While Spanish police resorted to violence in closing polling stations and preventing voters from casting their ballots, the Catalan police focused on keeping the peace, and in some cases, protecting the public from the aggressions of Spanish police officers.
Yet, six judges in Catalonia opened investigations on Sunday into the actions of the Catalan police. Three are investigating the Mossos for contempt, while the others are looking into private lawsuits. One of the suits accuses the Mossos of “inactivity” at a polling station.
Tensions between the Mossos and the Spanish police were evident early on, with videos of verbal confrontations between Catalan and Spanish police officers shared on social media. As Spanish police continued to raid polling stations, Catalan police teamed up with firefighters to protect the public against baton charges by Spanish officers.
Emotional response from Catalan police
Images began to appear online, such as the photo of a man embracing a Catalan police officer in Lleida who broke down out of a feeling of impotence as Spanish police seized the ballot boxes in a local medical centre being used as a polling station. Later, the video of a Mosso wiping away tears in the Pyrenean town of Vielha appeared. Footage shows people chanting behind a row of Catalan police officers, two of whom become emotional and one is seen wiping away a tear while another buries his face in his hand.
A tough day for the Mossos indeed, and one that could get worse. On Sunday morning, Spain’s attorney general said he would wait to see how things progressed before accusing the Catalan police of contempt. According to the prosecutor, the Catalan police were charged with ensuring that the public places designated as polling stations be closed.
With the first ballot boxes arriving at the polling stations around five in the morning, the pro-independence organization, the Catalan National Assembly, asked people to leave the premises of polling stations so as not to cause any confrontations with the Catalan police. However, soon after, in many places around Catalonia, the Spanish riot police arrived.