New chapter in Catalonia’s banner war. At 3pm on Friday a new banner has appeared at the Catalan Government’s headquarter with the text “Freedom of opinion and expression. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Catalan president Quim Torra had been asked to remove all banners and symbols from the government headquarters’ façade by the Spanish electoral authority. The electoral authority had ordered Catalonia’s own police body, the Mossos d’Esquadra, to have all symbols deemed as “partisan” removed by Friday at 3pm.

The head of the Catalan government also challenged the electoral authority orders and requested them suspended. He also announced that next week he will take the institution to court for breach of official duty. Spain’s attorney general ordered Catalan prosecutors to file a lawsuit against president Torra later on Friday for failing to comply with previous instructions to take symbols down.

Torra had previously defied two orders to remove the adornments from public buildings, which were issued in light of a complaint by opposition party Ciutadans that they would prejudice the neutrality of institutions during the election campaign. The initial debate centred on yellow ribbons, a sign of support for pro-independence leaders currently in prison or in exile, but Torra’s attempt to cover them up with white ribbons earlier this week was not enough to calm the controversy.

Manifestly unfair

In a statement, Torra argued the electoral authority rulings were “manifestly unfair” due to the “arbitrary” nature of the deliberations and asserted that he would continue to stand up for freedom of expression “with all the consequences that entails”. He repeated his criticism of an alleged lack of separation of powers in Spain on the basis that two members of the electoral authority are presiding judges in the trial of independence leaders.

“The members of this organization perceive a serious violation of the law on a poster but do not see any irregularity in the fact that a political party is campaigning from the podium of the Supreme Court [Vox as private prosecutors], where two members of the JEC are judging several candidates for the next Spanish and local elections.” Torra also encouraged citizens to hang yellow ribbons on their balconies, as well as flags supporting a Catalan republic, in protest against a “demophobic state which violates the most basic civil rights of Catalans, including the right to self-determination.”

The Spanish government spokesperson Isabel Celáa reacted to the news of Torra removing banners by saying that “he is doing what needs to be done and what he should have done from the very first day.”