Catalan president Quim Torra hung a banner with a white ribbon and the message ‘Free political prisoners and exiles’ from the government headquarters balcony on Thursday, after Spain’s electoral authority ordered him to remove an identical banner with a yellow ribbon. A symbol of support for jailed and exiled pro-independence leaders, the yellow ribbon was deemed “partisan” and unsuitable for public buildings during election periods. Torra challenged the electoral authority despite the threat of criminal charges, but eventually backed down after the Catalan ombudsman advised him to comply.
On Thursday morning, Catalan government workers covered the original banner with another showing the exact same message—the only difference is that the ribbon was not yellow, but white, and struck through with a diagonal red stripe. The red stripe is similar to that used by the pro-independence Òmnium Cultural on many of its banners.
The electoral authority requested the Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera, to send pictures of the government façade to decide if the new banner complies with the ban on “partisan” symbols. Unionist Ciutadans party has challenged Torra’s decision, while insisting that the electoral authority make sure “symbols clearly relatable to separatist parties” are removed from public buildings. Cs leader Inés Arrimadas referred to the new banner as “outrageous” and “an attack by nationalists to democracy and to over half of Catalan citizens.” Spain’s ruling Socialist party dismissed Torra’s decision as a “mockery” and urged the electoral authority to intervene with “strength.”