Yesterday, the people of Catalunya did something remarkable; they faced a violent crackdown against peaceful deliberation with the honor of nonviolence. Their example is a gift to the world.
- The earliest Catalan constitution—les Usatges de Barcelona—was established nearly 1,000 years ago.
- In those times, their monarch—the Count of Barcelona—was elected.
- On September 11, 1714, their ancient laws and independence were lost in the Bourbon conquest.
- Catalunya endured 130 years of military occupation, eventually tearing down the hated citadel stone by stone.
- From 1939 to 1975, the Franco dictatorship brutalized Catalan people with impunity, and overtly tried to stamp out their language.
Yesterday, all of that came flashing into daylight, as the government of Mariano Rajoy ordered a coordinated use of paramilitary violence against innocent, unarmed civilians going to cast ballots. The scenes are shocking and incomprehensible—jack-booted storm troopers kicking old ladies, throwing people down staircases, shattering hands with batons, and in not one case provoked.
And yet, though all of this brutal history was weighing on them, though the violence of the Guardia Civil was inhuman, illegal, and inexcusable, millions of people went to vote, to honor the civic process, and thousands of them in solidarity with each other, with the long ache of history, and with the fundamental rights of all people everywhere, resisted without violence.
They stood vulnerable, with their hands raised, and bore the unwarranted assault—a shining and heroic example of devotion to the civic process and to nonviolence.
With the weight of 1,000 years of history, facing terror and malice that has no place in human society, they stood for right, and they showed it can be done without weapons, without hate, without reckless aggression.
All of us owe these people a debt of gratitude for their show of moral courage and devotion to peaceful civic process. Whether their overwhelming (89% in favor) vote for independence is upheld, the people of Catalunya have shown the way to a better future, in which human dignity overwhelms the forces of violence.
Moltes gràcies, Catalunya. El vostre exemple mai s’oblidarà.