Two years ago today, a group of the Spanish paramilitary Guardia Civil knocked at the door of a member of the Esplugues de Llobregat CDR activist group. They intended to arrest Adrià Carrasco on charges of rebellion, sedition and terrorism. His mother managed to warn him and he skipped out over their balcony with little more than a pair of trainers he had just grabbed. Then he set off on his long journey to exile in Brussels, where months later he would appear publicly to denounce the case.

In the same operation, police detained the Viladecans CDR member, Tamara Carrasco, who subsequently spent more than a year confined to her town. In November 2018, the Spanish National High Court, the audiencia nacional, reduced the serious charges in both cases to public order offences. Adrià is accused of lifting motorway toll barriers and Tamara of organizing protests. Both cases remain open, in separate courts, with Adrià’s case at a complete standstill as he is still in exile. We talked to him about his experiences in the past two years, the current state of his case, and his view of the protests by the grassroots independence movement.

– Two years ago the Civil Guard came to arrest you and you were forced into exile. How are you now and how have you experienced the whole process?
– It’s been two years of resistance and disobedience, of not legitimising the Spanish justice system by not allowing myself to be tried for acts I don’t consider punishable in a democratic state. The acts I’m accused of are completely legitimate and form part of the exercise of my fundamental rights: freedom of expression, association and expression.

– A year ago, you mentioned that there were days when you were down. Does it still happen to you or do you think that you’ve fully adapted now?
– I don’t lose sight of or trivialise what’s brought me here. True, it’s sometimes difficult to get used to this sudden life-change. It’s complicated, because you have to get your head round it. It’s been two years now… I live, work and study here, I have a circle of people and I try to continue my activism. I want to go back when I want to. It’s my decision. I want to have the chance to do it, but I don’t think about going back all the time. I try to make the most of my time here and get on with my life.

– What do you work as, or study?
– I work as a sound technician and study Spanish Law in Catalan at the UOC, which suits me fine. I believe law is a very relevant field that shapes our lives and limits us greatly and at the same time we’re unaware of it. We pay little attention to what it means, why it exists, what its goals are, how we can use it to our advantage and how we can prevent others from using it against us.

– Do you see yourself defending the victims of reprisals in the future?
– Yes, yes. Obviously, my main motivation is to be able to help people who find themselves in a similar situation. In general, they are persecuted for their political activism. And in the long run, it can change society.

– And what do you do as an activist?
– This is complicated because language is still a barrier after two years. An assembly in your own language is complicated enough… But I try to collaborate on several fronts: the fight in Kurdistan, immigrant detention centres, which are very important here… I try to contribute as much as I can.

– You’ve commented that you’ve felt under surveillance, even in Brussels. Do you still have that feeling?
– I think paranoia, or rather the survival instinct, will stay with me for the rest of my life. It’s something I’d have been grateful to have had before and I think we should all be aware of our surroundings. To know if the risk of arrest is real. I understand it more as an instinct of alertness or survival than a trauma. I try to see it as a positive thing.

– What stage is your case at? The latest news is that the courts of Granollers and Vilanova are supposed to make a decision and will continue to accuse you of a public order offence.
– Hardly anything’s changed really. We know that my case has ended up at Granollers court and there it stays. We don’t know what they’re waiting for. In any case, both my support group and I demand that the case be dropped completely because what they’re charging me with are completely legitimate acts.

– About a year and a half ago, the Spanish National High Court put your case on hold. What’s your explanation for the delay?
– Well, technically I don’t know. I guess it’s just lying there and I’m not at the top of the list. I want it to move along and for something to happen, but it’s not a priority. I think right now there are people in a much worse situation than me and it wouldn’t be right to push it.

– The rebellion, sedition and terrorism charges were dropped, but they could still imprison you for a public order offence. Nevertheless, after such a long time, have you thought about taking a risk and returning or do you completely dismiss that possibility?
– No, it’s not worth it… Spain spends a lot of resources on its forces of repression – giving them the pleasure or taking that risk doesn’t make sense to me. I live here now and lead a relatively comfortable life so I don’t think taking on Spanish justice system is worth the risk, especially when I don’t consider it legitimate to judge my case.

– What’s life like in confinement there?
– In Belgium we can go out, do some sport and go for a walk. Two-by-two, keeping a distance of a metre and a half. The bars and non-essential shops are closed and only the supermarkets are open. We’re advised not to go out, and it’s very noticeable that there are no cars or people on the street, but the confinement here isn’t as strict as it is in Catalonia. They thought that it was more logical for us not to be pulling our hair out like there. I think people are climbing the walls a bit at home. It’s always the same people that suffer during crises and this one’s no exception. I think that, to some extent, the prisoners and the persecuted, including the exiles, are the worst affected.

– Why?
– First, because prison conditions make it impossible to keep a safe distance. A cell is only so big… And many of the inmates experience a kind of double confinement because visiting rights have been reduced or cancelled altogether so they don’t get the social interaction they have a right to. The officials come in and out every day, though… I don’t think it makes sense. In Spain, there are about two thousand prisoners over the age of sixty and most have health problems. Although they’re a high risk group their rights aren’t guaranteed. Then there’s the working class: people who lose their jobs, people who have to go to work without the proper safety equipment, people who can’t pay their rent because they’ve been temporarily laid off… Take me, for example, now I’m not working or getting paid. It’s always the same people who end up paying. There’s only one reason for this: the capitalist system, which isn’t designed for the good of the people, but for the accumulation of wealth.

– Does exile change much when you’re in confinement? I’m talking about visits from family, friends…
– Sure it does… Before I was isolated because I couldn’t go back, now I’m isolated because they can’t come, which was the only thing left for us. Neither I nor the other exiles can have visits so we’re disadvantaged because of this too.

– Despite the confinement, this April 10 anniversary is being used to draw attention to your case again. Do you still receive many shows of solidarity?
– Obviously, when everything happened there was a lot of support, and then it inevitably it dropped off, but I think I’ve been given lots of opportunities to say my piece in the media and I’ve made the most of it. My support group makes sure somehow or other my case isn’t forgotten. We’ve just launched the #ConfinadesMaiSilenciades [Confined But Not Forgotten] campaign on social networks and today we’re starting another one to raise awareness about the people worst affected by the coronavirus crisis.

– You’re talking about advocacy campaigns that aren’t so focused on you, but rather on reporting violations of rights in general.
– Yes. Repression is intrinsic to the state and it affects the whole of society, in particular ordinary people. Calling for the freedom of individuals is pointless. We want to use my case to launch the debate about the rights of political prisoners, exiles and social prisoners, who are victims of capitalism. And that’s inseparable from the struggle for amnesty.

– In fact, many pro-independence activists have been jailed this year: the prisoners from September 23, the detainees from the post-sentence protests… How do you feel about it, looking at it from a distance?
– Very angry. When the repression comes, the activists must give a forceful response to show that we can’t be trampled on. Being here has prevented me from standing with my people, and I get frustrated about it because it’s a bit like what they came to do to me and Tamara. The fact that they didn’t catch me and didn’t get us both doesn’t change the fact that they tried again, but in a much more brutal way. It’s terribly frustrating and at the same time it strengthens my resolve not to fail, that if we yield, they’ll come at us harder. Since the repression doesn’t stop, we must continue to fight, raising our voices and defending our right to protest.

– Has the latest wave of repression had the effect of stopping or reducing CDR activity?
– If I said it hadn’t, it’d be a lie because the facts are what they are. But I don’t think it’s so much that they’ve broken us, rather that they’ve accomplished one of the hidden goals of repression: that the effort we put into the original fight is now spent on fighting repression. It’s true that this struggle enables us to continue building human networks, which in the end are the ones that give us the strength to persist, but sometimes we focus all our energy on the struggle against repression and neglect the primary goal a little. This doesn’t mean that the persecuted shouldn’t be supported, but that we should preserve some of our energy so that the repression doesn’t affect us so much.

– During the protests the Democratic Tsunami had greater presence and impact than the CDRs.
– Although I have a hard time accepting it, the Tsunami is an example of how people need leadership to guide them to some degree or another. I wish it wasn’t that way. I think we’re capable enough as individuals within a collective to articulate our own struggle without waiting for someone to guide us and to decide what action we can take to combat this state that’s trying to silence us.

– The barricades also had a great impact. You’ve always been critical of those who criminalised such actions.
– The criminalisation of people wearing hoods and masks subsided somewhat, but it’s still there. There was a bit less criticism because the sentence in the trial against the process was such a huge offence that burning containers seemed more or less justified. But what we don’t take into account is that maybe the people who’d previously worn hoods for other reasons and had been criminalised had also had enough. Each person chooses how they want to fight and that must be respected. I think it takes all sorts and I consider this fight to be completely legitimate: it is self-defence.

– Do you consider this strategy more useful?
– The headlines during that week of fire in Barcelona were clear. We reached more people and drew more attention to the fight in a week than in ten years of the process. In that sense, the barricades are certainly useful. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no political discourse behind them. Fire without a message is of absolutely no use.

– What’s the path to independence now, when we get back to normality?
– If I had a magic solution, we wouldn’t be here. I think after this we’ll have to come out in droves and with great force. And keep fighting, obviously.

– Some people say that after the confinement we should stop talking about the ‘process’ and talk more about social rights.
– For many people independence means talking about social rights. Independence is meaningless without social demands. I see no sense in creating a state just to save yourself from another. And obviously, a social debate must be opened…

 

[This article from the Catalan version of VilaWeb was kindly translated by Milford Edge,  and published in this blog].

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