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(en) Czech, AFED: "You have shown us that being peaceful is useless" - The Case of Pablo Hasél [machine translation]
Wed, 14 Apr 2021 10:58:10 +0300
An Interview By Radio Fragmata (Greece) with An Anonymous Anarchist in Spain ----
The following is an interview with an anonymous anarchist in Spain regarding the
recent riots and general response to the prosecution of anti-fascist rapper Pablo
Hasél. We hope this interview helps both to inspire others around the world with
news of this uprising, but also to prepare for similar policies that are being
implemented across the neo-liberal world; intent on repressing our movement's
voice. ---- With love and solidarity, we spit on the grave of Franco from Greece,
welcome the passion of those in the streets of Spain attacking symbols of the
state and capital, and present this conversation as part of a broader project of
borderless solidarity in the struggle against fascism.
An Interview By RadioFragmata (Greece).
Who is Pablo Hasél? And what is happening in Spain in regards to his case and the
riots that followed?
Pablo Hasél is a 32 year old Catalan (1) rapper and anti-fascist. As a rapper his
songs generally focus on left-wing causes, armed struggle, and are frequently
critical of the Spanish monarchy. (2) The Spanish state has extremely retrograde
laws regarding what may be thought of as freedom of speech'. These include
article 491 of the Spanish Penal code which calls for fines and prison sentences
of up to two years for Insults to the Crown', and Article 578 which calls for
similar punishment for glorifying terrorism'. These laws are used
disproportionately against people on the left and anarchists, while far-right
individuals and neo-nazis are rarely if ever charged or sentenced to jail time.
Pablo Hasél has repeatedly run afoul of these laws. He has refused to censor his
message and because of this he has been prosecuted for the content of his lyrics,
especially his references to historical armed groups such as GRAPO(3), and
criticism of the king and the Royal family. In 2018 he was found guilty violating
Article 578 and 492 and was ordered to enter into prison two years later in
February of 2021. Hasél refused to voluntarily turn himself in, instead issuing a
public statement and barricading himself among supporters inside Leida
University. Riot police fought their way into the university and took him into
custody on February 16th. His arrest and the underlying anger felt among a large
segment of mostly young people in Catalunya and throughout the Spanish state led
to almost a week of rioting especially in Barcelona, but also in Madrid,
Valencia, the Basque Country and smaller cities like Vic, Iruñea (Pamplona),
Lleida and Granada.
The widespread nature and strength of the rioting surprised many among the
Spanish status quo, however it is clear that a tension has been building for
quite some time as the Spanish state continues to expose and even flaunt its
Has the law been enforced in the past? What is different about this situation, or
why such a significant response of resistance in the streets now?
It is important to understand that Pablo Hasél's jailing was only the spark that
set off this conflagration. The last few years have shown that despite the
election of a leftist coalition government (with left-wing Podemos party as the
minority partner) Spain continues lurching to the right. The far right,
misogynist, and xenophobic party Vox has made huge gains. With covid lockdown
mandates primarily punishing working class people, the far-right have used the
mandates to deceive and rally public support against the parliamentary-left
central government. These anti-government' demonstrations flaunting the lockdown
rules were permitted in right wing, wealthy areas in Madrid while in Vallecas, a
traditionally left wing working class area of the city, residents were not
allowed to leave their neighborhood except to go to work, and when they protested
they were viciously attacked by the police.
In Catalunya, years of a failed attempt to push for the region's independence
have seen the central government send thousands of national police to support
Catalunya's own notoriously brutal Mossos D' Esquadra' police force to violently
smash all peaceful attempts at a referendum on separation from the Spanish state.
As protests turned to riots and many leaders of the independence movement were
jailed or forced into exile, local rage spread beyond the issue of independence
to a wider attack on the authoritarian central government and police, both local
and national. Many demonstrators have been injured and scores have lost an eye
from being shot in the face with less than lethal' projectiles by the police. A
new generation has been brought up in the streets and the lessons they have
learned the past few years were put into action in almost a week of intense
street fighting this February.
Early in February of this year there were a pair of events, right before Hasél's
incarceration that helped build tension throughout the Spanish state,
highlighting the violence of the police and the government's hypocrisy when
dealing with so called extremist threats' and free speech'.On February 12th,
2021 a pair of off-duty National Police were filmed beating a man and assaulting
his 14 year old daughter outside a bar in the city of Linares in Jaen (in
southern Spain), the police, who were visibly drunk, can be seen in videos
recorded at the scene mocking those who came to the man's aid. As the videos of
this brutality spread across social media the policemen were arrested and that
night hundreds of locals poured into the streets of Linares, marching on police
stations, throwing rocks, and setting fires. The police shot rubber bullets at
the crowd and even pulled people out of passing cars to beat them. In one
instance they used live ammunition on demonstrators, seriously injuring one man
in the leg. The video of the initial brutality and the riots went viral,
unnerving many as it put a spotlight on the violent behavior and feelings of
impunity of the police.
The next day, on February 13th, in Madrid a militant Neo-Nazi demonstration was
allowed to go forward by the local government. The march was in honor of Spanish
soldiers who fought with the Nazis in World War II. (4) The demonstration, made
up of some three hundred fascists, went ahead unopposed by anti-fascists and had
zero police presence.
Coverage of the event went viral after the press, including foreign press, filmed
the spectacle of hundreds of nazis giving anti-Semitic speeches and raising their
arm in the roman salute in the nation's capitol. A few days later, the image of
Pablo Hasél being led into prison for his statements juxtaposed with sieg-heiling
neo-nazis freely inciting anti-Semitic violence in public, was a stark reminder
of the fascist and authoritarian core of the Spanish state; as well as the
ideological foundation and true intentions of the anti-free speech laws that led
to Pablo's imprisonment.
Another repressive law, commonly known as the Ley Mordaza or Gag Law' has been
in effect for years. It hearkens back to Franco-era repression, making certain
criticisms of the police and institutions punishable offenses. Even publishing
photos or videos of the police can lead to heavy fines. Hope that the Socialist/
Podemos coalition would rescind this law has so far been in vain. During the
pandemic it is reported that the police issued over 600,000 citations for
disobedience' or resisting authority' based on this law alone.
For many, especially young people, who feel sold out by older radicals who have
entered into parliamentary politics, and often lacking the presence of an older
generation of anarchists (because of this movement being weakened by repression
and internal strife), there seems to be a deep malaise, a seething anger at the
state of things. With this background, and the events of the past months and
years, it is clear that Pablo Hasél's case is just another symptom of the latent
fascism in Spanish society and politics, the explosion of rage is an expression
of discontent and the tension continues to build. A prominent banner displayed in
the last days of the riots in Barcelona echoed the sentiment that many young
people there feel, proclaiming: You have shown us that being peaceful is
Do you think this law is a reflection of a broader political tendency among
This notion of the politically sane right-leaning yet polite and moderate
position that claims any radical challenge to society as a form of extremism.
Facebook for example has been asserting this tendency by absurdly grouping
together fascists or anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists with anarchists and
anti-fascists. This tendency seems to be the growing trend across European and
North American governments.
All over the world governments are attempting to ward off their own demise. It
seems quite telling that despite anti-authoritarians and the radical left' being
quite weak in many places, especially Europe, right now, they continue to be
targeted by these repressive laws. This shows that those in power continue to
fear us as a potential threat to their grip on power. We can see this in France
where Macron's attempts to further criminalize dissent with his Global Security
Law' which were bravely met with heavy resistance in the streets.
The current Covid crisis has also become a way for any critique of their
authoritarian tendencies to be portrayed as negationist', paranoid conspiracies,
or against the public interest. The press in Spain has followed suit, some even
trying to -ridiculously- claim that the riots are the work of right wing
anarchist extremists', Covid negationists', and so on. It is an attempt to
further confuse the general public and to try and stop the spread of the real
anger that is becoming more and more generalized.
It is clear that we are entering a new era of conflict and that the lockdown
measures and failures to control this crisis are leading to a new crisis of
The George Floyd rebellion, as well as the spontaneous explosions of anger
throughout the world serve as a warning to those who govern to be wary of their
fragile position. This is why those in power and the press that toe their line
attempt to muddy the waters - they hope that this diffuse rage will not coalesce
and build into something that becomes directed at them.
What types of groups and demographics participated and/or are participating in
There are many different kinds of people who participated in these riots, in many
areas of the Spanish state including Barcelona, Bilbo (Bilbao), Iruñea (Pamplona)
y Lleida, Valencia, Madrid, and even Granada. The riots were mostly made up of
young people, teens to early 20s. In Catalunya many people who participated in
the protests are veterans from the riots around what was called the Democratic
Tsunami'(6) in the fall of 2019, when separatist leaders were given lengthy jail
sentences. Barcelona continues to have a relatively vibrant anarchist movement
and quite a few anarchists participated in the street fighting and other ground
level support during these riots.
In Madrid the demonstrations were called by anti-fascist and militant communist
groups, there was a call put out by local anarchists to support the demonstration
as well, and participation from anarchist and anti-fascists in the unrest that
night. These dynamics seem similar (youth, anarchists, communists, antifascists)
in Valencia, and the Basque Country (where a long tradition of local radicalism
helped fuel wild protests).
What type of institutions were targeted primarily by the riots? Is the damage
targeted, and if so why these targets?
The main target of these riots were the police themselves. In Vic (Catalunya) a
police precinct had almost all of its windows smashed and part of its interior
trashed. In Barcelona a local newspaper had its windows broken, and many banks
were attacked. Windows were also broken at the stock exchange and high end retail
shops were looted in the last days of rioting.
Despite the targeted destruction of capitalist entities that continue to profit
as people remain in lockdown and are forced to travel in packed trains to work
service jobs, the focus remained primarily on the police. In Madrid video
surfaced of rioters cornering a group of riot police and using everything from
outdoor seating area umbrellas to electric rental scooters to beat them. The rage
against the police was palpable these days and is due in no small measure to
their brutality, their ideological role in supporting the most reactionary
elements of Spanish society, and their violence in enforcing lockdown measures.
Are previously apolitical people joining in the streets? Is there a broader
tension being exposed in this moment unifying people who typically wouldn't come
together as such a political force?
It's hard to say if this has brought out previously apolitical people though it
seems that way to an extent. In Madrid a left wing newspaper interviewed a group
of previously apolitical youth who were beaten by police at the protest. (7) They
all had become radicalized by seeing first hand the rabid brutality of the
police. In Barcelona, as well, it seems that a large segment of the population
was mobilized by Hasél's incarceration and their anger against the monarchy and
the Spanish state in general. As I said before this is definitely linked to a
larger tension, one that comes from before the Covid crisis and has been
exacerbated by it: the state's authoritarian drift in the past 5 years, the royal
family's blatant corruption, the resurgence of fascism in Spanish society, and
the disillusionment with the parliamentary left and police brutality. It remains
to see if these riots and these reactions to repression will build into a larger
struggle capable of seriously confronting the Spanish state.
1) Catalunya is a semi autonomous region in the Northeast of the Iberian
peninsula. For years there have been wide spread efforts among a large sector
(right wing to left wing, bourgeois and working class) to secede from Spain.
2) Spain was ruled from 1939 to 1975 by a fascistic national catholic
dictatorship, only ending with the natural death of its leader Francisco Franco.
As opposed to places like Germany, and Italy this dictatorship remained in place
after the second world war and was never defeated, instead Spain entered into
what is called the Transition' a period of democratization of the Spanish state
where the old regimen's crimes went unpunished and many of its structures and
laws were left intact. In the last years before his death Franco brought in Juan
Carlos I, the grandson of the last Spanish king, grooming him to return as the
official heir to the throne of Spain. Two days after Franco's death Juan Carlos I
officially became king.
The corrupt monarchy and new democracy that came relatively seamlessly out of the
Franco dictatorship left Spain with many fascist era cultural, political and
social issues that continue to fester within the society.
3) GRAPO was a Marxist-Leninist armed struggle group heavily active during the
last years of Franco and during the early 1980s.
4) The Blue Division (Division Azul) was a volunteer unit of Spanish soldiers who
were sent by Franco to fight alongside the Nazis on the Eastern Front during the
Second World War. There are still monuments to them, and streets named after them
in parts of Spain.
5) Nos habéis enseñado que ser pacíficos es inútil
6) These protests quickly became very large and aggressive and were met with
extreme police brutality. The protests spread and led to large scale rioting
across broad sectors including radical independence activists, anarchists, and
youth breaking out of the narrow framework of the mainstream separatist movement.
Please consult the following websites for updates on the situation in Spain:
Elbow to Elbow: Let's Face the Repression - https://colzeacolzeblog.wordpress.com/
Todo Por Hacer: Monthly Anarchist Publication - https://www.todoporhacer.org/
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