Occupation of Barcelona airport

Catalonia’s Tsunami Democràtic have answered VilaWeb’s questions explaining their take on the Spanish state’s attempt to block their communication lines with the population. Tsunami’s message is crystal clear: whatever happens, they are geared up to communicate with the people. They also reveal that they have received support from across the world and that over 40,000 people have already downloaded and validated their app using a QR code. Upcoming actions are slated for November 9, 11, 12 and 13, as well as December 18.

Tsunami Democràtic is an anonymous online platform that cropped up out of the blue in early September and has managed to take centre stage in Catalan society in just a short time. Their explicit goal is to drive and coordinate the response to the verdict in the case of the convicted Catalan independence leaders by means of non-violent, civil disobedience actions. Their first call was to occupy Barcelona’s airport on October 14. It came only hours after the verdict was announced and was a resounding success. Spain’s interior minister rushed to threaten them by vowing that those responsible would be found. The Guardia Civil have gone even further, accusing Tsunami of being “a criminal organisation that stages terrorist attacks” in order to justify taking down Tsunami’s tools hosted on GitHub.

In their founding manifesto Tsunami Democràtic make it very clear that they stand for “defending individual and collective rights through an organised, determined, democratic struggle based on non-violent civil disobedience”. They go on to state that “self-criticism, irony, creativity, diversity, imperfection and anything that boosts an all-embracing collective movement will be our tools of choice. We do not shun any discomfort caused by the exercise of basic rights and social transformation. We embrace it and confront it”.

—The Spanish state is obsessed with cutting off all access to Tsunami Democràtic. What should anyone wanting to stay connected do?

—Basically, follow our account on Telegram, Twitter and Instagram. They are operating at full steam, with easy-to-find download links for the Tsunami Democràtic app, for example.

—What exactly has happened with GitHub? Have they offered any explanation?

—GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft, have denied users based in Spain all access to the code they hosted for us. The official explanation is that they do this sort of thing all the time, at the behest of a government. For instance, today Russian and China asked them to do that, like Spain did.

—Would you say that Microsoft and GitHub have censored you on behalf of Spain?

—It’s a blatant case of censorship by Madrid. Whether this is done automatically or not —and what Microsoft and GitHub’s reasons are— is something for them to say.

—Do you expect other companies, such as Twitter or Telegram, to follow suit?

—That is a question for Twitter and Telegram to answer. Tsunami encourages non-violent mobilisation to defend basic rights. If Madrid takes issue with that, then that is their problem, not ours. As far as we are concerned, Tsunami Democràtic is ready to stay in touch with everyone, no matter what happens. Many people around the world have come to our aid.

—Spain’s internet service providers have agreed to censor you on behalf of the Spanish government. Is that a major hurdle?

—Clearly it is a hurdle for free speech and the ideological freedom of the Spanish citizens who feel their basic rights are being threatened once again. Is this a ploy to thwart the mobilisation for self-determination, basic rights and freedom in Catalonia, thinking that Tsunami is what holds all that together? All we can say is that it is a ludicrous assumption: we are and will be everywhere. Censorship is not the answer, politics is.

—Your app still works. Will it be essential for the upcoming actions?

—Our app is a necessary complement for the actions. It allows us to add a very innovative extra layer of communication and mobilisation. You should also bear in mind that we are prepared for a very long campaign and, therefore, there is stuff and methods that we’ll explain in due time.

—Can you tell us how many times your app has been downloaded?

—We’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads. We are specially proud to see that over 40,000 users have downloaded and validate the app with a QR code. This is truly unique, worldwide.

—Does your Telegram channel make up for the app’s lack of notifications?

—Our Telegram channel is more for mass communication, whereas the app allows us to talk to every individual user, if necessary.

—Why would you recommend Telegram?

—It’s a nice, secure way of staying tuned to Tsunami’s messages.

—If we combine all those channels, how many people are in direct contact with Tsunami Democràtic?

—We can’t say because we don’t know how many people are presently on all five channels (Telegram, Twitter, Instagram, web site, app) at the same time. But we reckon it must be close to half a million.

—So how do you feel about that figure?

—The fact that Tsunami has reached that number in less than two months merely proves our motto: “We’re all Tsunami”. There are two to three million people standing for self-determination. The people’s strength comes from trusting sound ideas and fair principles. The action on October 14 is evidence of that, as was the referendum on 1 October 2017: trusting the person next to you.

—How do you see the fact that Spain’s Guardia Civil has stated outright that you are “a criminal organisation with terrorist goals”?

—That would be a question for the Guardia Civil to answer. What evidence do they have that a campaign which has staged a handful of actions, all of which under the banner of non-violence, is terrorism? Under the rule of law, the onus is on the accuser to prove guilt, not the other way round. In Spain there is a habit of expecting the victims rather than the assailants to explain themselves. Every one of Tsunami’s statements has emphasised our commitment to non-violence and we have rejected direct violence on many occasions. Once again, this is a problem for the general public in Spain, who are at risk of being charged with terrorism every time they protest and demand their rights.

—Did you expect a persecution of such magnitude by the Spanish authorities? Had you anticipated such a massive clampdown?

—The problem with repression lies with those who use it against a non-violent population that demands a dialogue for their basic rights.

—How do you feel about the Spanish interior minister’s words, when he said that they will expose the people behind Tsunami Democràtic?

—We’ve said it before. Our answer to the minister’s words is that the people behind Tsunami are the same as those at the front. Whenever we talk about “the people behind” we are effectively buying into a mental frame where people who come together and rally for social goals are criminalised. Once again, we wonder if they’re also probing other social movements who protest, too. Perhaps the minister ought to tell us if they are investigating “the people behind” the movement that stages feminist strikes. And who is behind Fridays For Future. Or any other group that wants to change the current state of affairs. It is also true that this week we have witnessed the arrest of a spokesperson for the PAH [a platform that brings together people who have been evicted after they defaulted on their mortgage payments]. So this is a very worrying time for the citizens of Spain.

—On reflection, how do you see the actions you staged at the airports in Barcelona and Madrid?

—We feel that both were a complete success and an example of what we intend to achieve: every action has a purpose, a conclusion and it pursues a change of scene, opening up to new possibilities. For example: bringing the airport to a standstill on the day when the verdict is announced, forcing PM Pedro Sánchez to change his plans on the day when he visits Barcelona, ensuring that our hashtag #SpainSitAndTalk reaches the whole world. People know that when they set themselves a goal, it is achieved thanks to mutual trust and the network they’ve created. This is how you strengthen the movement and the self-esteem of a people who are forever at the receiving end of repression.

—Why do you schedule your actions so spread out in time?

—It’s easy: on October 14 Madrid lost its grip on the agenda and the timing of events. Spain is being reactive, something that hadn’t happened for two years. Tsunami co-exists with many more initiatives, proposals and campaigns which generally complement each other, always without resorting to violence. It’s all about making sure Madrid understands that we will remain mobilised until it does what the motto says: #SpainSitAndTalk. The goals are self-determination, freedom for the prisoners, exiles and anyone who’s suffered reprisals and the full exercise of basic rights.

—In the future are we going to see last-minute actions or will they all be announced well in advance?

—Every action will be announced and suggested at the right time for it to succeed as planned.