I was there and this is what I saw

The author, a Spanish judge, recounts her experience on the day of the illegal referendum, October, 1st, in Catalonia, in front of an illegal polling station.

October 1st, somewhere in Catalonia. I did not want to be told by either side or the other. That is why I was at eight o´clock in the corner of the polling station of my neighbourhood. There were about two hundred people, and little by little, more people of all ages were arriving. Only one of them was clothed with the estelada₁ but someone told him to took it off and he did so. There is people in the school yard too; the door is closed but they perch on the fence. They are young people, some of them children.

A couple of Mossos d´Esquadra ₂ are in the opposite corner. They do nothing, they just stare at the void. A young woman approaches them to give them two white carnations. They accept them but a second later they let the flowers on a nearby park bench. A mother with her two little children –between 5 or 7 years old- come near the school door. The children take musical instruments out of their cases and begin playing Els Segadors ₃ . People stop talking and listen to the music. One Mosso says that he finds it very moving. I can´t believe what he says!

They organize the voting using megaphones. They ask children and old folk to stay at the front door and to form a corridor to protect voters. There is even an octogenarian who has brought a chair from his house. A considerable number of people queue willing to vote. They say that it is possible to vote without an envelope, in any electoral college, and with any kind of ballot people bring from home. All of them check out social networks to get information.

I run into many people I know and they stare at me perplexed. I told them that I have come to see it with my own eyes, that I do not want anyone to tell me about it. They seem pleased. They tell me about the intense emotion they felt when the ballot boxes arrived at dawn. I remain silent.

It is only two minutes left for the Electoral College to open. I do not understand the passivity of the “Mossos” and I begin to be indignant. Suddenly someone warns that the police are coming.

Around five national police vans are moving down the street. The people queue scatter itself and becomes a close-knit group in front of the school door. People peek at the balconies. Police agents deploy in silence. People start screaming: “murderers”, “sons of bitches”, “we will vote”. Police try to approach the school door. People scold them and throw water on them. Police agents stand all this undisturbed.

People form a human chain hugging each other in a close-knit formation to prevent police agents entering the school. The agents fire into the air ₄. Children get scared and cry, and then people insult the police: “You should be ashamed, don’t you see that there are children here?” And I asked to myself: what are those children doing here? Have not been their own parents the ones that have brought them here and placed them at the school door without thinking about the children´s integrity?

I feel ashamed again.

More police vans arrive. Police agents come out of them in a hurry. Insults, slongans and shouting mount. Some people start to run, I do not see why. Tension grows, and then for the first time in my life, I identify myself with my judge´s professional card to the commanding officer, putting myself at their disposal in case there are problems. He tells me they have the order to avoid a police charge, nevertheless he offers me a place to take cover in one of the police vans in case it gets ugly. I thank him but I am there as a spectator and I do not want to bother them while they are doing their job. I stay out of the police cordon.

The police move fast, they form a cordon to protect their vehicles and prevent the people from passing through, while other police agents enter the school to remove the ballot boxes and the ballot papers. And yes, there is one person hurt. People shout loudly at them:”¡Murderers!” and they insult them again. People say it is “violence” against a “democratic act”.

My mother emerges from the tumult, she is Catalan and a firm defender of the Catalan “differential fact”, though not an independentist. She indignantly remarks that the police agent had taken enough offence from the lunatic that spat on his face, insulted and pushed him. And she textually says to me: I would have hit him much sooner!

The police agents do not look at the faces of the people that, shamelessly, place themselves in front of them to rudely insult them, claiming respect for “democracy”, reproaching them their “oppression”, and calling them “invaders”. There are plenty of people; young people, old people, men, women. They brazenly place themselves within inches of the police agents faces to shout at them all that crosses their minds.

Right in front of me, a man discharges his verbal wrath in front of an agent that looks away and does not seem to be disturbed. I suppose that the turmoil happens inside. When the individual gets tired of screaming he goes away, the police agent looks at me and I cannot help to show him my Judge´s professional card. I tell him how proud I am of them. He looks at me in surprise, smiles at me and he says: “thank you”.

Once the ballot boxes are seized by the police, the area is cleared. They will be no voting here. The police go to another conflictive place and I too go away, after being part for two hours of the sad reality that we currently have to endure in Catalonia.

I feel indignation for what I have had to listen. I feel stupefied by the anger that a large part of the people oozed. A certain fear for what may happen tomorrow, and from now on. I am convinced than my version will not be the one that people tell, because it does not offer the aimed victimhood, but I was there and this is what I saw.

*** Mrs. Olga Bautista Camarero is a magistrate, and member of the Judge´s Association Francisco de Vitoria.

Translator´s notes:
1. Catalan separatist flag.
2. Catalan regional police.
3. Catalan separatist anthem.
4. They fire rubber balls.

Source: Digital Journal El Español