Was police brutality in Catalonia justified?

Hundreds of thousands of Catalonians have demonstrated against police brutality during the referendum on Catalonian independence which left more than 800 people wounded. The central government's measures against the illegal referendum were appropriate no matter how many people come out and demonstrate, some commentators stress. Others call on the Spanish PM to resign.

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El País (ES) /

Democracy being abused to stage a coup

El País accuses the separatist politicians of being agitators:

“Yesterday's events revealed the extent to which the Catalan regional government is acting like a committee of professional agitators, an agent of insurrection, an anti-institution. It is acting like an apparatus that opposes the liberal system and abuses the advantages and privileges of the democratic institutions to carry out this step-by-step coup d'etat. ... No use of force nor applause from legitimate sources can validate or turn this irregular and fraudulent consultation into a valid referendum.”

Causeur (FR) /

Prime minister strengthened by referendum

The referendum has strengthened the position of the Spanish prime minister, security expert Hadrien Desuin writes in Causeur:

“Mariano Rajoy, initially weakened by the fractured parliament, has now emerged as the last defender of Spanish unity. His steadfastness and determination not to cede an inch to the separatists have improved the voters' opinion of him. ... In the end turbulence and insurrection always strengthen those who fight to re-establish order. The Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police, didn't dare to confront either the police from Madrid or the insurgents. The fact that it stayed out of the conflict is a condemnation of the Catalan referendum. After years of bland government the prime minister from Santiago de Compostela may yet emerge as the saviour of the old Spain.”

Pravda (SK) /

Rajoy must step down

For Pravda newspaper, by contrast, only one person is responsible for the whole mess:

“The government, which can't be surprised by what happened, opted for the worst possible response. It could have just ignored the referendum it calls unconstitutional. The public treasury is in Madrid, not Barcelona. Everything is in the hands of the central government. ... Rajoy's government has pushed the country to the brink of civil war within just a few weeks. ... Rajoy's resignation is therefore not just a matter of political and moral responsibility but also a precondition for a way out of this situation.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Violence will backfire

Police beating up peaceful voters will not only strengthen the Catalan independence movement, Večernji list complains:

“Madrid is wrong to think it can break the will of the Catalans with police brutality (even against women and children) and the raiding of ballot boxes. On the contrary, after yesterday's downfall of democracy the number of those who support independence not just in Catalonia but in the Basque Country and perhaps other Spanish provinces will certainly grow.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

EU remains silent

Most of Europe's politicians haven't said anything about the violence in Barcelona, the daily paper Efimerida ton Syntakton comments angrily:

“The images from Barcelona are unprecedented - not just in Spain but across Europe. But what is the reaction from Europe? ... Very few European officials have made a statement on the brutal police repression, although naturally quite a few have muttered something about the unity of Spain. Of course Rajoy is not an 'authoritarian', 'dangerous', 'fascist' leader like for example Venezuela's President Maduro. Rajoy is one of ours. A prominent champion of European rights and one of the best colleagues in Angela Merkel's bloc. One wonders what would the reactions have been if the socialists or Podemos were in power in Spain.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Europe losing its role model status

The police operation has destroyed Europe's credibility, Dnevnik criticises:

“Europe should be in a position to allow the public to express itself democratically, even if it's very unpleasant for the government of a nation state. ... If police suppression of political movements is acceptable in Europe, there's no way a European institution can convince the government in Egypt to resolve minority issues without bringing out the tanks. Europe will have a hard time explaining to the Iraqi government that it should resolve domestic tensions democratically by seeking agreements. If police brutality is acceptable outside Europe's polling stations, it's acceptable everywhere.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Catalans violating a long-standing agreement

The Catalans' struggle for independence poses a major threat to Spain and Europe, Rzeczpospolita believes:

“After the death of Franco a compromise was reached: 17 regions of the country would be granted substantial autonomy but the kingdom would remain united, unless all Spaniards decided it shouldn't. This was the model for the democratic transformation of Poland and many other countries in central Europe. But the organisers of the referendum broke this agreement. If the vote is recognised by any state of the united Europe, not only Spain's democracy would collapse but also the EU itself, which cannot exist without the reciprocal loyalty of its member states.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Separatism is irresponsible

The separatist minority is plunging an entire nation into tragedy, Corriere del Ticino rails:

“On the one hand there's the split between a weak majority that is against secession and a strong minority that wants to cut the umbilical cord. ... Then there's the fracture between the Spaniards and the Catalans which will likely have grave consequences. ... The Catalan government is rejoicing: it will declare independence and thus deepen the divide between Spain and Catalan society. It will do this on the basis of a referendum that lacks democratic legitimacy. One which repeats the vote of 9 November 2014 when 1.9 million voters (out of 5,5 million registered voters) said yes to independence. This is the strong minority that will decide the fate of an entire country.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Look ahead despite desolation

Despite the hopeless situation the politicians and society must not turn their backs on each other now, La Vanguardia admonishes:

“Desolation. No one can be proud of what happened. No one can boast. No one can display satisfaction. No one can claim to have won. We have all lost. So what now? First of all we must not be imprisoned by our sorrow. Attempts must be made to open channels for dialogue. We propose the establishment of an independent commission made up of legal experts and respected public figures which after a designated period should present a proposal to the Spanish central government and the Catalan regional government that offers a way out. A proposal that, once agreed on by the political authorities, can be presented to Catalan society in a peaceful and free vote.”