Barcelona's Olympic Stadium demands release of the imprisoned Catalan leaders

Barcelona’s Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium, named for a former Catalan president imprisoned (and executed) for political reasons, has filled this Saturday to support the new political prisoners. According to the ANC (Catalan National Assembly), up to 50,000 people attended the “Concert for the Release of the political prisoners”. Besides music, the event was charged with emotion and politics. The artists performed for free, with all profits going to the solidarity fund set up to cover any financial penalties incurred by leaders of the independence movement, awaiting the possibility of having to pay more bail money out on Monday. Despite the idea being for there to be more music than speeches, they ended up taking up a large part of the concert’s running order as the circumstances brought family members of the prisoners onto the stage. Oriol Sànchez, son of the president of ANC, read a letter from his father in which he promises to “continue pushing for independence” when he leaves prison. The president, who is standing for election on 21 December with the Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) candidacy, has called for the public to fill Brussels on 7th December and to fill the ballot boxes on the 21st. Neus Cuixart, sister of the leader of Òmnium Cultural, also read a message: “We’re feeding our hearts with dignity, and future generations will live on this dignity”. “In this prison, I feel you near at hand, knowing that sooner rather than later we’ll be together again.” The imprisoned government also sent messages from their Madrid prisons. From Soto del Real, vice-president Oriol Junqueras also asked those present to fill the ballot boxes “with votes and dignity”. “If we defended the ballot boxes on 1st October, we have to show that we’ll always stand with the ballot boxes, whatever the result.” He expressed his regret that not only has he not committed any crime, but has always tried to do good. Raül Romeva expressed his thanks for the “stream of letters” he receives and said that they will continue fighting “for the cause of freedom and full democracy”, which they will not renounce “neither with batons nor with bars”. “An abuse and an injustice” Carles Mundó denounced that “it’s an abuse and an injustice which shows the inability of a [Spanish] state which, to solve a question which is just political in nature, forgets dialogue”. He quoted president Lluís Companys, whose name the stadium bears: “All the world’s just causes have their defenders. On the other hand, Catalonia only has us.” He added that “we only have ourselves and nobody will gift us anything”. From Alcalá Meco, Meritxell Borràs confessed that she misses many things, especially those she loves. “From physical distance I tell you that I have you here through your letters. “I have hope and anticipation for the Catalonia which moves forward daily.” Marta Turull, daughter of government spokesperson Jordi Turull, read something she had written for her father, rather than something written by him: “Gatherings with family or friends, such simple things, are what Jordi enjoyed, and now he’s deprived of them” “We hope that very soon he will be able to return to his town, Parets del Vallès.” The wife of Josep Rull, Meritxell Lluís, read a letter from the minister’s group of lifelong friends. “In our lifelong group of friends we are fourteen men. We were fourteen boys, then we were fourteen young men and now, for a good number of years, fourteen men (…) Today we’re thirteen men with a yellow ribbon loop on our lapels.” Dolors Bassa was meant to be represented by her sister Montse, but she had another “sacred appointment” at Alcalá Meco. Her letter was read instead by Mariona Bassa, their cousin: “What we imagine most strongly is the hug you will give us.” Laura Masvidal, wife of Joaquim Forn, denounced that as “hard” a measure as preventive detention without bail “is designed to protect society” and as such “should be dictated with the same rigour as a firm sentence”. As such, she said that they are indeed political prisoners: “I realise it every day when I go out into the street, when neighbours come up to me in solidarity. His absence becomes constant presence.” Puigdemont: “To continue on and to persist” The ministers in exile in Brussels also wanted to send messages, starting with president Carles Puigdemont, who thanked those present for the gesture of support for the political prisoners. “We’re showing what the people of Catalonia are like”, said Puigdemont in a message recorded in the Belgian capital. “This channel helps us to keep our hope alive, to continue on and to persist,” he said. Minister Toni Comín defended the work done thus far: “We have to be aware of everything we’ve achieved because the 1st October [referendum] and 27th October [declaration of independence] were not in vain. They’re the stones upon which we’ll build our future.” Clara Ponsatí admitted that “we’re going through a difficult time”, but promised that “we’ll win again”. Lluís Puig said that “the warmth you’ve given us crosses the 1,200km which separate us”. Meritxell Serret asked the audience to continue “with this strong conviction defending the values of democracy and freedom”, because “only with these values will we be able to bring about an exciting future”. The concert was also attended by a wide range of people from the pro-independence parties and election lists. “We peacefully defend democracy and they impose democracy with hits from batons, imprisonment, with bans and by decree”, criticised Marta Rovira, now accidental leader of ERC (Catalan Republican Left), due to Junqueras’ imprisonment. “The fight will have to continue” Agustí Alcoberro, vice-president of the ANC, who organised the concert, argued that “we’re a country which fights singing and which sings fighting”. He referred to the possibility of the prisoners being released on bail on Monday. “Monday could be an important day,” he said. “However, whatever happens, the fight will have to continue for freedom and to close all the open cases and to keep filling up the solidarity fund.” Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium was first decked in yellow, for the yellow handkerchiefs handed around. Later, as night fell, it lit up with the lights of thousands of mobiles. Yellow and light in support of the political prisoners, awaiting their destiny on Monday.

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