Catalan human towers demand a self-determination vote in London, Berlin, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Lisbon and Brussels
Civil-society organisations from Catalonia have simultaneously built a traditional human tower, on Sunday 8 June at 12 o'clock (CET), in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, London, Lisbon, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, as well as in 41 additional Catalan towns, to claim for the right of self-determination. "Catalans want to vote. Human towers for democracy" is the banner shown at the action, which ended with a manifesto read by famous personalities such as Paul Preston, Jordi Savall and Pep Guardiola. This large-scale action taking place in almost 50 different locations throughout Catalonia and the rest of Europe has been organised by the civil-society association Òmnium Cultural and has been exclusively funded via private donations and membership fees. 71 'castellers' groups, who are those building the traditional human towers (called 'castells' in Catalan) have participated in the action, which represent 85% of the existing 'castellers' associations.
Barcelona (ACN).- Civil-society organisations from Catalonia have simultaneously built traditional human towers, on Sunday 8 June at 12 o'clock (CET), in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, London, Lisbon, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, as well as in 41 additional Catalan towns, to claim for the right of self-determination. With this Sunday's action, a wide share of Catalonia is sending a message to Europe and the rest of the international community: "Catalans want to vote". According to all the opinion polls published in the last 2 years, between 75% and 80% of Catalan citizens want to hold a self-determination vote. In addition, recent polls indicate that between 50% and 55% of all Catalans would support independence in a referendum and around 25% would oppose, while the rest would abstain or are still undecided. Despite the strong majority in the Catalan Parliament supporting self-determination and the manifold demonstrations and political actions to be able to organise such a vote, the Spanish Government is totally blocking it. "Catalans want to vote. Human towers for democracy" is the banner shown at the action, which ended with a manifesto read by famous personalities such as historian Paul Preston, musician Jordi Savall, footballer Pep Guardiola, actor Sergi López, playwright Helder Costa and actor Joan Mompart. This large-scale action taking place in almost 50 different locations throughout Catalonia and the rest of Europe has been organised by the civil-society association Òmnium Cultural and has been exclusively funded via private donations, membership fees and the personal contribution of participants. The association President, Muriel Casals, read a manifesto in Barcelona's event in front of the Sagrada Família Basilica, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The same manifesto was read in the other European cities in each local language. 71 'castellers' groups, who are those building the traditional human towers (called 'castells' in Catalan) have participated in the action, which represent 85% of all the existing 'castellers' associations. This Catalan tradition was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010.
"Catalans want to vote. Human towers for democracy." This is the simple message that was shown in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, London, Lisbon, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, as well as in 41 additional Catalan towns this Sunday at the same time. The civil-society organisation Òmnium Cultural organised a large-scale demonstration to raise awareness at European and world level about the strong will of a wide majority of Catalan people to hold a self-determination vote in order to decide on their future as a nation.
Spanish Government is blocking a vote supported by 80% of Catalans
Almost 80% of Catalans want to hold such a vote according to multiple opinion polls and the results of the last Catalan Parliament elections, held in November 2012. Back then, 80% of the elected MPs promised to support self-determination during the campaign for the elections, which became a sort of plebiscite about this issue, with the highest turnout in many years. Following the electoral mandate and after confirming the Spanish Government was not moving from its unilateral no-to-everything attitude, a wide majority of the Catalan Parliament reached the agreement to organise an independence vote on the 9 November, 2014. Such a vote is totally blocked by the Spanish Government, despite several Constitutional experts having argued that the law could be interpreted to make it possible, and thus the problem is the lack of the political will to authorise it. In fact, the Spanish nationalist and Conservative People's Party (PP), which runs Spain's Government, is holding an absolute majority in the Parliament and therefore totally controls it, as well as having a great influence in the politicised Constitutional Court.
On the 8 April, the Spanish Parliament rejected a motion to punctually transfer the powers to organise a self-determination referendum to the Catalan Government. It was the clearest and strongest rejection of Catalonia's right of self-determination made by the Spanish establishment. In addition, the Constitutional Court – which lost most of its legitimacy after it trimmed Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy in 2010 after the law had been approved via a binding referendum in 2006 – issued an ambiguous statement on this issue at the end of March. The Court was not recognising a "right of self-determination" as such for Catalonia, but it was recognising "the Catalans' right to decide" on their own collective future and positing that legal frameworks can be changed following political talks.
Catalan civil-society and grass-roots associations have organised many demonstrations in the last few years
Over the last few years, Catalonia's civil-society has been organising many peaceful and festive actions and demonstrations to demand the right of self-determination and to be allowed to hold an independence referendum. Òmnium Cultural, a civil-society organisation founded in the 1960s to support Catalan language and culture during Franco's Spanish nationalist and military dictatorship, is behind this Sunday's large-scale, multi-location event. Together with the grass-root association Assamblea Nacional Catalana (ANC), Òmnium Cultural was also the organiser of the two massive demonstrations calling for independence that took place in Barcelona in September 2012 and throughout Catalonia in September 2013. The first one gathered 1.5 million people, according to the police, and the second one formed a 400 kilometre-long human chain that spanned north to south throughout Catalonia, uniting more than 1.6 million people (according to police), who were holding hands.
A message to the world: "Catalans want to vote" and voting is democratic
Now, Òmnium Cultural went one step further and decided to directly send a message to Europe and the rest of the international community. Over the last two years, Catalonia's vindication to hold a self-determination vote has not received many open endorsements from international organisations and foreign governments. The Prime Ministers of Lithuania and Latvia supported Catalonia's right of self-determination but, after the loud protests of the Spanish Government, they nuanced their statements.
Besides, the European Commission sent contradictory messages two years ago, but after strong pressures from the Spanish Government, it is indirectly intervening in the debate by not providing complete answers on whether Catalonia would still be part of the EU in case of independence. EU Treaties are not clear on the issue and many experts have argued that temporary measures could be adopted to guarantee the continuity of common market and EU agreements in an independent Catalonia. The European Commission is fuelling the Spanish Government's fear strategy, issuing messages that "as a general principle" a "part of a Member State that secedes" would automatically be out of the EU "from the day of its independence". However, at the same time, the Commission rejects talking about what would happen with Scotland and Catalonia, and whether the afore-mentioned transition measures could be adopted. On top of this, it is insisting Catalonia's self-determination is Spain's internal issue, despite itself indirectly intervening in the debate.
Human towers on show in 7 European cities and 41 Catalan towns
5,000 'castellers' (those building the human towers) have participated in Òmnium Cultural's action, being part of 71 different groups. These 'castellers' troupes constitute 85% of all the existing associations of 'castellers' in Catalonia. A representation of the best 'castellers' groups has travelled to Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, London, Lisbon, Paris and Rome to display their creations and raise awareness, in a unique and original way, of Catalonia's will to hold a self-determination vote. All the human towers were built at 12 o'clock (European Continental Time), except that of London, which was completed some 15 minutes later than the others because of 3 failed attempts.
The Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls built a 7-storey human tower with 5 people per level in front of London's Tower Bridge. "It is probably the best way to tell the world how we are and claim for the [self-determination] consultation vote and state we want to vote in a peaceful, festive, vindicating and cultural way", stated Jordi Bosch, from Òmnium Cultural. British historian Paul Preston, who is probably the most prestigious expert in Spain's contemporary history, attended the event and gave his personal support to the action.
The Xics de Granollers were those in charge of sending the message to Germany. In Berlin's Alexanderplatz, in front of more than 300 people, they built a seven-storey human tower with 5 people per level. The FC Bayern Munich Manager Pep Guardiola, who is from Catalonia and used to coach FC Barcelona, supported the action and read the manifesto in German.
The Castellers de Vilafranca built an 8-storey human tower with 3 people per level in Brussels' Grande Place. In French and Flemish, they showed banners reading "Catalans want to vote. Human towers for democracy". The Catalan actor Sergi López, who has been cast in many French-speaking films, read the manifesto in the two local languages. "We are exercising that famous Catalan pedagogy: we are in Brussels to tell the Belgians, to the French and Flemish communities, that we do exist, that we are the Catalan people and that we want to decide on our future on the next 9 November", stated Sergi López.
The Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls built an 8-storey human tower with 4 people per level in front of the Eiffel Tower, at the Champs de Mars. The Catalan Musician Jordi Savall, who is considered the world's main expert in Early and Renaissance music, read the manifesto in French.
The Xiquets de Reus built a 7-storey human tower, with 5 people per level, in front of the United Nations headquarters in Geneva's Place des Nations. The Swiss actor Joan Mompart gave his personal support to Geneva's demonstration.
The Borinots de Sants performed in front of Lisbon's Torre de Bélem. They havebuilt an 8-storey human tower of 3 people per level. The Portuguese playwright Helder Costa endorsed the demonstration and attended the event. "A difference must be made between citizens and serfs, and citizens must be able to vote", stated Costa.
The Bordegassos of Vilanova i la Geltrú were in Rome and built a 7-storey tower with 4 people per level on Gianicolo hill. The Vice President of Òmnium Cultural, Joan Abellan, said he was "very excited" in front of this simultaneous demonstration throughout Europe. According to him, the human towers and this demonstration show "what makes Catalonia a better country", which is "being able to pool together to lift towers that represent our dreams".
Finally, the traditional human towers were also on show in Barcelona, the Catalan capital. In front of Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Família, a 7-storey tower with 3 people per level was built by the Castellers de la Sagrada Familia, who are named after the same Barcelonan neighbourhood. The President of Òmnium Cultural, Muriel Casals, was in charge of reading the manifesto and emphasised: "Catalans want to vote".