Spanish police siege to the CUP party offices

Spanish police officers raided CUP’s party headquarters without a judicial order / Martí Urgell


On 20 September 2017, while the raids at the Ministry of Economy were taking place, a dozen police officers from the Policia Nacional appeared at the headquarters of the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) in Barcelona. 


Straight away, the police officers proceeded to seize campaign material for the forthcoming referendum, as members of the CUP attempted to load it into a vehicle in front of the Ministry. No judicial or official document that would justify such action was presented to the CUP members present at the time.


Then, this first patrol of the Policia Nacional attempted to access the CUP headquarters. The workers and members present inside the office demanded the judicial order justifying their entrance to the headquarters of a political organization. Neither then, nor at any other moment during that afternoon, was any judicial order supplied by members of the Policia Nacional. The Catalan Police, Mossos d’Esquadra, supported the Policia Nacional’s operation in regards to traffic and citizen security. 


Throughout the afternoon, crowds of people arrived at the CUP’s headquarters in order to provide support and show their solidarity. This resulted in more than 2000 people preventing the police patrols from accessing the entrance. At all times, the people’s intentions were to display their resistance in a non-violent manner, and not one incident was caused by the attendants. The police siege lasted for more than six hours. 

“20-S” is a detailed reconstruction with the help of eye-witness accounts and people who took part in the events of what happened outside the Catalan Finance Ministry buildings in Barcelona and at the CUP party offices in Barcelona on the 20th September 2017.


On 7 September 2017, on the same day that the Parliament of Catalonia approved the Referendum Law, the Constitutional Court precautionarily suspended it and sent letters to almost 1,000 public offices (members of the government, mayors and directors of the public media) warning them that, if they participated in the oragnisation of the referendum, they would be committing a crime of disobedience.

On 8th September 2017, the Public Prosecutor of Catalonia issued an instruction addressed to all security forces; they were ordered to act on their own, “intervening the effects or instruments intended to prepare or celebrate the illegal referendum”.

This instruction gave rise to all kinds of police action that involved serious violations of fundamental rights throughout the region, with a police force determined to stop the referendum no matter the cost.

The outcome

On 20th September 2017, the Policia Nacional intended to enter the CUP headquarters without judicial order. When members of the CUP and their legal team refused to allow their entry without the order of registration, the agents deployed a device of intimidation around the crossroads while hundreds of people were arriving to demonstrate their support and peacefully resist the attempted assault of the CUP headquarters.


During the police siege, representatives of the CUP first, and later the legal team – which included members of the Defense Commission of the Board of lawyers of Barcelona (ICAB), the president of the Catalan Institute of Human Rights, CUP MPs, and the Deputy Mayor of Human Rights of the Council of Barcelona – tried to obtain some information of the aims, motivation and scale of the police operation. No explanation was given by the police forces throughout the day. 


While leaving, the police officers fired foam guns, three times, against the protesters. The use of this kind of weapon has been forbidden in Catalonia since 2014. 


On the following day, the Spanish government’s delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, told Televisión Española that the siege with twelve police vans had been maintained for more than 6 hours, as the officers waited to receive a court order that never arrived.


On July 2017, the CUP had asked the Court of Instruction nº13 of Barcelona to be part of the procedure in order to be able to exercise its right to defense and to effective judicial protection -this court was the one who ordered the registrations in some institutions on the 20th September. The court rejected the CUP as a part, claiming that its investigation had nothing to do with the referendum.   

Violated rights

The attempt to enter the HQs of a political organisation – either with or without judicial authorisation – is a clear attack upon political freedom. Political organisations are a cornerstone of any democratic system and are specially protected by the constitutional provisions. 


The fact that the police forces did not provide any explanation after seizing political material is an act of censorship, especially if we consider that no document was delivered to the members of the CUP. This behaviour, by a public authority, is not acceptable under any circumstance within a democratic society, and it seriously harms the right to defence. Fourthly, it is an abnormal democratic situation in which civil servants reject to give information to any citizen or to a legal team such as this one.


The fact that the Court of Instruction no.13 of Barcelona rejected the CUP attempt to partake in the procedure, shows that the rule of law is often found lacking in Catalonia, especially in relation to the democratic and peaceful exercising of political rights. That is, the lack of any basic rights clearly shapes the concept of state of exception.

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