AGAINST THEIR DEATH WORK, WE AFFIRM LIFE!
We are here today in Gracia Gardens, a site historically marked by violence since its very foundations. The ostentatious homes of the Catalan bourgeoisie here, were built off the riches gained by the colonial violence of the slave trade (mostly in Cuba and Puerto Rico) which the Catalan bourgeoisie staunchly defended within the Spanish empire.
We are here today, right here, because on this day two years ago, just when the revolts in Chile were breaking out, here there was a general strike.
The general strike came after a week of protest on the streets, where some of us had gone out to fight against what we believe is unjust, to do something with the discomfort we feel, created by the violent normality of a capitalist colonial system which is deeply racist and patriarchal.
We are here because during those mobilisations, the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan Police force) in coordination with the Policía Nacional, (national state police force) chose a strategy of indiscriminate firing of foam and rubber bullets against everyone who was on the street.
We are here today because just here is where one of us was shot in the head at short range by a mosso d’esquadra (catalan police officer).
Foam bullets are not randomly fired. They are fired through a high precision viewfinder, aimed at an exact target.
The shot caused a very serious head trauma and internal brain hemorrhage. We went to the hospital – accident and emergency, intensive care, surgery. They almost won, but they didn’t.. they played to kill but they lost. Our friend has lost her hearing in one ear, she has been left with a hole in her skull and the injury has caused chronic epilepsy, but she did not lose her life.
What happened here that day was not a coincidence or a random mistake. The policeman who fired the shot was not overstepping orders. The police strategy of firing foam bullets is a decision made from above, decided with the goal of creating panic and generating fear in order to dissuade people from taking to the streets and so demobilize the protests.
But the story does not end here. On arrival at the hospital, the doctors reported to the courts what had happened. Judge Santiago Garcia Garcia, of court of instruction number 29 in Barcelona, closed the case without an investigation.
Whilst our friend was in intensive care in grave condition, the Catalan president Quim Torra tweeted his worry about the hospitalised girl, sending his support to the family! Could that be any more hypocritical? The Catalan police, under his orders, continued firing bullets at the protesters in the streets.
Since 2014, the government has invested 2 million euros on weapons and ammunition for firing foam bullets. Between may 2019 and march 2021, the mobile brigade of riot police (BRIMO) fired more than 1250 foam bullets.
The regional Minister for Health, Alba Vergés, went to the hospital and offered to visit the patient and talk to the family but they refused. Both the government and those responsible in the Catalan police force knew full well the magnitude of the events but at no point have they made any public show of responsibility. Nor have they reprimanded any officer for overstepping protocol on the use of foam bullets (such as firing at the head or at short distance). Everyone at the Ministry of the Interior (Home Office) knows the name of the police officer who overstepped the mark; but his name has never been made public. Just as the Catalan police mossos d’esquadra shoot to protect the Catalan government’s interests, so the government and the judges guarantee legal impunity for their police force. Thanks to that armed police force, any possibility of social change is contained.
So the story continues. Our friend was out of danger and beginning recovery. The days went past and neither the Catalan government nor a single judge made any kind of move in relation to these events. The Home Office and the Catalan government began an audit to investigate the 33 police actions during the protests against the custodial sentences of the Catalan politicians involved in the independence vote. They conclude that in order to avoid situations like those which occurred during the protests, there must be an increase in the number of riot police, the buying and employment of more low injury weapons – like foam bullets, and the use of tear gas.
This is a slap in the face for all the people who were injured during those days. The state, far from letting its guard down, is reinforcing itself in order to continue committing the violence necessary to maintain its power. But the most insulting thing, in regards to the case which brings us here today, is that when the Home Office makes a recount of all the people injured that week, the gunshot to the head does not appear registered anywhere! How can this be? A fact which moves the Catalan president and the ministry of health to offer words of support, but which only a few months later does not appear on the internal police investigation report! So this is how they construct the narrative of what happens and what doesn’t happen in their country!
The erasure of memory is a weapon of power. That is why we are here today.
One year on from the gunshot to the head, we decide not to take the case to the criminal court because we don’t feel like having to step into a courtroom where we know from the experience of so many other people that it is almost impossible to win a case against the police. They never know who it was because they make sure there is no evidence. In the best of cases they might recognise the facts but they never know who exactly committed the action. The police shoot because they are protected by the legal impunity which they are granted by the judges. It will not be a courtroom that we heal our wounds. We do not mean to invalidate the decisiones of those people who chose to put their cases through the justice system, we simply have no desire to use up all our energy in a courtroom.
The compañera who they shot, decides however, to bring a civil court case, because at least that would leave an official record of what happened. Now, one year on from the civil claim, the department for internal affairs of the Mossos d’Esquadra has not even begun to ask for the declarations of the 6 witnesses, when the legal deadline to resolve investigations is 6 months. All together this has given us the push to highlight the case and leave a record, in our own way, of what happened. That is why we are here today.
After the actions of the Mossos d’Esquadra that October of 2019, their public image was left damaged. Many of the people who don’t usually experience the daily threat of police violence, saw it with their own eyes and became aware of the level of violence exerted by the police force and the Catalan government. Every day the Mossos d’Esquadra exert this violence and even kill people. A good part of the Catalan population live with the daily threat of ending up in police cells, with the fear of being beaten in the street or of being killed. Deaths at the hands of the Mossos d’Esquadra and other law enforcement agencies are not isolated events. We remind you as we said before, that the erasure of memory is their weapon.
On the 31st of July 2013, Yassir El Younoussi died in the Vendrell police station after 5 agents immobilized him face down whilst handcuffed in his cell. The images from the security cameras of the police station mysteriously disappeared. The provincial court of Tarragona closes the case.
On the 6th of October 2013, the Mossos kill Juan Andrés Benítez in the neighborhood of the Raval. No police agent is ever condemned for the killing.
On the 3rd of December 2013, Alik Manukyan was found dead in an immigrant internment centre in Barcelona after confrontations with the police officers who held him. The official version – suicide. There were two prisoner witnesses, but they were immediately deported to their country of origin before they could declare before a judge.
On the 6th of February 2014, the Guardia Civil fire rubber bullets in Tarajal against people swimming in the sea in an attempt to enter Europe. 15 people died. In July of 2020, the Provincial Court of Cádiz closed the case against the agents who opened fire.
On the 22nd of July 2016, a man dies in the cells of the Mossos de Vic police station.
In August of 2017, after the attack in the Ramblas, the Mossos murder at least three children and three other young people, with the excuse of defending against Islamic terrorism. An excuse used to justify the death sentences they had carried out, including to children. For their actions, the police officers were awarded the medal of honor and civic merit by Barcelona Town Hall.
On the 5th of August 2018, Gina Gómez dies in an isolation cell in Brians Prison, a death which the judge refused to investigate. The official cause of death – suicide. The Judge, Susan Solans Ballarini, of the Court of Instruction 2 of Mataró, twice refused the possibility of a second autopsy by an external coroner to clarify the circumstances around her death.
On the 20th of January 2019, an 18 year old dies in the police station of the Mossos de Ciutat Vella. Another unexplained death in police custody.
On the 21st of November 2020, the Guardia Urbana of Barcelona fires twice at a man with live ammunition, leaving him wounded. The witnesses affirm that the man was not posing any kind of danger to anyone.
On the 26th of November 2020, the Mossos discharge a taser (electric shock weapon) on a woman in a doctors surgery in Sabadell. The taser was discharged on the woman’s body 6 times over a minute and a half.
On the 3rd of August 2021 an off duty police officer from the Barcelona Guardia Urbana pushes a man from a bicycle after an assumed robbery. The man died from the injuries in hospital a few days later on the 8th of August.
These are, in fact, just a few of the people who have died, that we know about, those who for some reason or other end up in the media. Perhaps because there were many witnesses or maybe because their loved ones had the resources to make it public.. But there are many more cases which have never been brought to light.
So of course, for many people, the idea of a world without a police force is scary. But the police are actually scarier! In order to feel strong enough to live without the police and find other ways of organising, one must look to other places in the world, where people have spent centuries in resistance and community life has allowed them to find other ways of resolving social conflicts.
Let’s talk about the stories that are shared with us from indigenous communities in Abya Yala, like for example the Nasa community in Colombia, or the Zapatistas in Mexico.
It’s also inspiring to know that some afro american communities in the USA are thinking about and putting into practice processes and methodology which do not require dependence on the law enforcement institutions which they wish to abolish. They see it as a possibility and they are going for it! Thousands of miles separate those experiences from Barcelona, but they have reached us and they help us to think outside of the box of capitalism and the state.
Imagining a world without police means imagining a world based on mutual support and dignity for ALL people. It is scary and it might seem impossible but it isn´t! There are things which seem impossible but in reality they are not! Just like those days in October 2019 in which we experienced a collective strength on the streets that we had never imagined possible. A collective experience which allowed us to see that the capitalist social order is not as solid as it appears.
Those were days in which the police force and their responsible politicians were disorientated and overwhelmed trying to maintain the peace and the social apathy which normally upholds the everyday life of society, sustained by violence and death.
The violence of the forces of order, that kicks people out of their homes, that defends the stock market every time there is a demonstration, that reinforces the European borders, that threatens, locks up, tortures, rapes, shoots and murders. The violence of the institutions, that takes children from their mothers because they are poor and/or immigrants, that denies healthcare to people who are not registered on the census, that makes social control the norm, that obliges people to work without rights and then accuses them of stealing jobs. The patriarchal violence that imposes on us how we should live our lives, how we have to dress, behave, who we can like; that normalises attacking women and blames them for it. The violence of Capital which plunders and destroys, which impoverishes, which contaminates rivers and oceans, which sets fire to woodlands and forests, that only has eyes for economic benefit, that extols the myth that everybody, if they make enough effort, can become a millionaire.
During those October days, we also went out onto the streets to stand up against that violence. They were days which allowed us to imagine that not everything is so tightly set and that there are cracks through which we can see it is possible to create a different life. Days where we could see on that far off horizon, a way of affirming life.
Until the moment our friend was shot in the head, it had been a beautiful day, just as other experiences of struggle and resistance in this city and other territories are beautiful too. This memory will never be taken from us, not even with foam bullets.
Capitalism is maintained with violence and death.
WE WILL KEEP FIGHTING, AT HOME AND ON THE STREETS, TO SUPPORT LIFE. THE LIVES OF ALL OF US.
*This is a collectively written text. Without this collective work we would not have made the reflections that allow us to understand what happened. We need each other, those who came before us, those who have been close by and those who are on the other side of the world. Alone we would not have survived the shooting. Everybody needs other people in order to survive and to live. This is the social change that we went onto the streets that day to fight for and we will keep going out and fighting for the lives of all people; And if something has to burn to reach that goal, so let it burn.