A common feature of the rallies that have taken place following Catalonia’s historic October 1 vote for independence has been the outpouring of support for Catalonia’s firefighters, who played a critical role in the lead up to and during the referendum.
During the campaign, the militant firefighters union resolved to carry pro-referendum propaganda on fire trucks and participate as organised contingents in pro-referendum demonstrations. On October 1, they played a pivotal role in helping to organise defence of polling stations and voters.
Catalonia’s firefighters are now calling on firefighters around the world to support their cause. This open letter to firefighters is republished from firefighterscatalonia.cat where you can find out more information about their campaign.
Dear firefighters of the world,
We, the firefighters of Catalonia, are writing to you to ask for your support in protecting the fundamental rights of our citizens.
On September 6, the Parliament of Catalonia passed the Self-determination of Catalonia Referendum Act. A binding self-determination referendum was then called for October 1.
During the weeks leading up to the poll, the people of Catalonia suffered serious violations of fundamental rights and liberties. Events escalated to the point where the most basic democratic rights were trampled on.
In this process we have also seen freedom of the press, expression and association restricted, and elected and public officials in our country have been threatened with bans from office, fines and court action.
We have suffered political threats, fear campaigns and searches of printing works, media and postal companies; we have 700 mayors under investigation for prosecution; public workers and government advisers have been arrested and unjustly accused of breaching civil rights; websites providing information have been closed; and the Catalan police force (the Mossos d’Esquadra) has been taken over and its commander accused of sedition.
Despite these obstacles, we Catalans voted on October 1. However the price of exercising our freedom to vote was very high: too high.
The repression by the Spanish National Police and Civil Guard, on the political orders of the Spanish State, trampled the honour of the Catalan people.
The same Spanish government which has refused dialogue as many as 17 times wanted to prevent citizens from placing a voting paper into a ballot box with violent and disproportionate physical and verbal attacks on peaceful, defenceless people upholding their democratic rights.
Faced with these unexpected events, on the day the referendum was held, we firefighters volunteered to go out into the streets to protect the physical integrity of citizens. We organised security cordons to peacefully protect people and ballot boxes.
But the militarised police forces ended our peaceful resistance with baton blows, kicks, punches, harassment and injuries we will never forget. Citizens of all ages were indiscriminately attacked and we uniformed firefighters became human shields.
That is why we are writing to you, to ask you for a demonstration of fellowship as citizens and firefighters of the world.
This is an account of very serious events that have not been condemned by the majorities in the European or Spanish parliaments. They do not even acknowledge that it happened, because they also deny there has been any referendum in Catalonia. Even the King of Spain, Felipe VI, has followed this line.
Best wishes to all our firefighter friends.