Neil McEvoy, Independent AM for South Wales Central
I arrived in Barcelona last night in order to celebrate La Diada: Catalunya Day.
There is a contrast as to what many people in Spain think is happening here and how the Catalans themselves feel. A political dialogue is desperately needed, but unfortunately is not forthcoming from the Spanish state.
The most overwhelming thing that I sense is an underlying fear and tension, kept in check by a stubborn belief in Catalunya, human rights and democracy.
In Wales, we have the luxury of falling out on social media over a range of quite unimportant issues. That is put in perspective when you visit Catalunyna and see citizens fighting for a future for their nation, against a powerful state waging a war of political extermination.
For the first time ever, the Spanish Civil Guard has been drafted into Barcelona for Catalunya Day. The civil guard is an organised as a military force, charged with police duties under the authority of both the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defence.
Last night there were reports of attacks on people wearing yellow ribbons, with a gang dressed in while hoods running amok a la Klu Klux Clan.
Here, you see the face of the real hard right, with Nazi salutes, who want to return to a past where they were free to subjugate other cultures. Francoism is alive and well.
Over the evening meal, we are told about a property covered with yellow ribbons being firebombed.
It’s official: the extreme right in Spain is frightened of a small morsel of yellow cloth. They are petrified by what it actually represents.
A whole political class of leaders has been imprisoned and I read in the Spanish press that many could be looking at up to 25 years in jail.
Activists tell me that they fear arrest and no longer carry mobile phones when going to meetings: the venues are clandestine, with some people using assumed names.
This is a European Union state in 2018. We could be in the 1930s.
For the first time ever on la Diada, there is a fear of violence. The Catalans tell me they are an open people who love diversity and what we would call “chware teg”.
They feel however that the fascist right have come for a fight; they want to spark violence in order to give the Spanish state the excuse to intervene more harshly. Law and order seems to have been turned upside down.
The former Chief of the Catalan police, Josep Lluís Trapero, who was praised as a hero worldwide last year for his handling of the ISIS attacks in Barcelona was arrested and charged with belonging to a “complex and heterogeneous criminal organisation” led by the former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.
Those were the words used by the Spanish national court judge Carmen Lamela in the indictment.
These are serious times in Catalunya, where anything could happen. It is predicted that there will be well over a million people on the streets tomorrow standing up for they believe in.
Should things turn ugly, these people will stand tall and turn the other cheek in the name of freedom. I will be one of them.
Neil McEvoy AM was invited to the Diada Celebration by Foreign Friends of Catalunya.