Unionist Cs MP removes yellow ribbon in Parliament
“I won’t allow this parliament to be a playground,” says speaker before suspending plenary session
A battle of symbols is underway in Catalonia. A senior MP of the main unionist party in the Catalan Parliament, Ciutadans (Cs), on Friday removed a yellow ribbon from the empty government seats in the chamber.
The ribbons were placed there in solidarity with the pro-independence officials who are either in jail or abroad. This led to a sharp exchange of words with the Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, who suspended the plenary session.
“I won’t allow this parliament to be a madhouse or a playground,” he told the Ciutadans MP, Carlos Carrizosa. Some minutes later, the Catalan president, Quim Torra, tweeted that “the yellow ribbon now more than ever represents the Catalan government.”
"This is not a madhouse"
It all started at 10am with an unprecedented image in Parliament: all government seats empty but for the president’s, occupied by the newly elected Quim Torra. He has not been able to form an executive yet, because he intends to reinstate four deposed ministers who are in jail or abroad, and the Spanish government is blocking it. That is why there was a yellow ribbon in one of the government seats, in solidarity with the officials incarcerated or in other countries.
But the unionist Cs did not want that yellow ribbon on the front row –where government ministers usually sit. "There is no reason for this yellow ribbon to be in an empty seat. It doesn't represent anyone, there is no government. We don't want a yellow ribbon in front of our bench," said Carrizosa to the Parliament speaker, demanding he remove it "immediately" and warning that, otherwise, he would do it himself.
"You won't remove anything, because this house is not a madhouse or a playground," warned Torrent. "This is the government bench, and they have this symbol as there have been other symbols before," he added. Carrizosa then removed the yellow ribbon and threw it to the floor. "I urge you to place the ribbon where it was. I call for order, put it back or give it back to the parliament services, or I will be forced to suspend the session," said the speaker. After the unionist MP refused, Torrent went ahead and suspended the plenary session.
Catalan president Quim Torra then approached the Cs MPs to talk about the issue, but they did not reach an agreement. Behind doors, they agreed that the yellow ribbon would be placed in the government seat immediately next to him, and not the ministers seats placed in front of the Cs bench. After about an hour, the plenary session was resumed.
"They occupy the seats of the government with ideological symbols, showing that this is not a government for all Catalans, only for those that wear yellow ribbons," tweeted the Cs leader in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas.
They are annoyed with yellow ribbons because they are annoyed with freedom of expression"
Yellow symbols have become a focus of controversy in recent days in Catalonia. They represent solidarity with jailed pro-independence leaders and politicians abroad. However, some unionist groups have started campaigns to remove them from public spaces, such as pavements, monuments, traffic lights or fences. Urging followers to "clean" the streets, some have paraded through the streets removing the symbols. Last Monday, a group of people in balaclavas vandalized an installation of yellow crosses on a beach, leaving five injured.
Following this, the Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, sent a letter to the nearly 1,000 Catalan mayors asking them to maintain “neutrality” in public spaces. In his message sent on Tuesday, he claims that mayors have the “obligation” not to allow such symbols. According to Millo, this has caused “a break in co-existence” in some cases. Millo stated in his letter that in the past few months, some streets, squares and public buildings “are being occupied by these biased symbols.”
However, pro-independence groups insist that they have a right to protest and that what really threatens co-existence is jailing Catalan politicians. "They are annoyed with a peaceful, civil symbol, they are annoyed with the expression of those that think differently so they want to erase it from public spaces… this new right is neither new nor right: it is the old extreme-right," tweeted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. "They are annoyed with yellow ribbons because they are annoyed with freedom of expression," tweeted pro-independence ERC.