The Pettiness of Catalonia’s Unionists

Let the separatists display their ribbons.

A yellow ribbon is wrapped around a statue in Brussels, Belgium during a Catalan demonstration for independence, December 7, 2017
A yellow ribbon is wrapped around a statue in Brussels, Belgium during a Catalan demonstration for independence, December 7, 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)

Catalan unionists, including the leaders of the region’s largest anti-independence party, Citizens, have taken to the streets to remove yellow ribbons that agitate for the release of separatist leaders.

Some eighty people descended on La Bisbal, a small town close to the French border, last night to remove yellow ribbons from buildings, wearing white industrial suits and masks.

The mayor, Lluís Sais, condemned the action, saying, “When someone has nothing to hide, and has no shame, they do not cover their faces.”

Citizens party leaders Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas nevertheless joined in the protest on Wednesday, removing yellow ribbons in Alella, half an hour’s drive north of Barcelona.

Violence

The same party has claimed that a woman was attacked in Barcelona earlier this month for removing yellow ribbons from the gates of Ciutadella park.

It is unclear if the assault was really politically motivated. The woman first said it wasn’t but now claims it was.

Whatever the truth, the Citizens have seized on the allegation to argue that the independence movement has lost the plot.

The reality is there has been remarkably little violence in the last year with the worst coming from the Spanish police on October 1, the day Catalans voted in an independence referendum that had been forbidden by the Constitutional Court. Hundreds were beaten by Spanish riot police in an attempt to disrupt the vote.

Out of proportion

The organizers of the referendum, including the former Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and the leaders of the two largest pro-independence organizations, are still in jail, awaiting trial. Catalans display yellow ribbons on their homes and their lapels to show solidarity with what they call their “political prisoners”.

Unionist anger over this harmless form of protest is completely out of proportion. They have the law and the Spanish state on their side. They convinced a judge to ban yellow ribbons from public buildings. Separatist leaders are either in jail or in exile. But magnanimity in victory clearly doesn’t translate well into Spanish. It is not enough for the unionists to win. The separatists must be humiliated.

It is petty, vindictive and ultimately counterproductive, as it does nothing to heal the rift between opponents and proponents of independence the unionists claim to worry so much about.