Diarmuid Breatnach (translation of material from Naiz and writing of article)
Julia Lanas Zamakola, 94 years of age, went shopping as usual in Gernika on Monday 15th December 2014 but ended up in hospital after the Ertzaintza, the Basque Police, raided the market to arrest a Basque political activist.
Jone Amezaga, a young female activist of the Basque pro-Independence Left movement, had been sentenced to 18 months’ jail for allegedly hanging a banner which the State Prosecutor said “glorified terrorism”. Jone denied doing it and said the Ertzaintza, the Basque police, had framed her and declined to present herself to the authorities.
Many things are considered by the Spanish state to be “glorifying terrorism”, including putting up photographs of Basque political prisoners in a public place, bar, café or social centre.
Elderly pensioner Julia Lanas said she had been pushed to the ground by the police during the raid. “My wrist was broken. It was an invasion, of terror. …. The Ertzaintza does not belong to the Basque (Autonomous) Government, they are nothing less than managers for imperial Spain.” “It reminded me of the Civil War,” she said and went on to say that she had survived the dictatorship (Franco’s) and the war and had relatives imprisoned and tortured.
Julia Lanas was given first aid by people in the crowd and then taken by ambulance to the Gernika hospital but they had to leave there because it was full. “There was a lot of solidarity” said Julia Lanas, referring to the crowd in support of Jone Amezaga and to the help she herself received. The 94 year-old woman was treated by the paramedics who then took her home and her son took her to hospital in Bilbao the following day. “The injury was from a telescopic baton,” she said.
After a sustained tussle between uniformed and plain-clothes police and Jone Amezgaga, the Basque activist was taken prisoner by the Ertzaintza, some of whom used their batons on the crowd. Having secured their prisoner, the uniformed Ertzaintza then retreated backwards through the market, followed by the hostile crowd, until they gained the entrance, near to their vehicles and there stopped and faced their opposition.
Jone and her supporters had been expecting the police raid. In 2008 the Abertzale Left, the mass collective of organisations of the Basque pro-Independence Left, announced that they would henceforth use only peaceful methods in pursuit of their goal of self-determination, and the armed organization ETA subsequently declared their “permanent ceasefire”. The Spanish state’s response was to continue its repression of the movement.
The youth section of the Abertzale Left sought to find an appropriate method of resistance and developed the “human wall”. Some of the youth movement activists who had been sentenced by the State, instead of surrendering to the authorities or going “on the run”, presented themselves in public places, surrounded by supporters. The police – always the Basque police except in Nafarroa but sometimes backed by the Guardia Civil – then were obliged to spend a long time pulling people out of the “human wall” before reaching their quarry.
The first of these “human wall” resistance acts was at Donostia/ San Sebastian in April in 2013 when 500 mostly youth surrounded the six youths convicted of membership of SEGI, the Abertzale Left youth organization. SEGI is classed as a “terrorist organization” by the Spanish state and by the EU despite not a single conviction, even in Spanish courts, of an act of violence by the youth organization. The Donosti human wall was followed by another a month later on the bridge at the port of Ondarroa, when hundreds sat, arms linked, between Urtza Alkorta and the Ertzaintza. In October 2013 in Iruňa/ Pamplona, the Policía Nacional of the Spanish state had to dismantle another human wall of resistance to get at Luis Goňi, another youth convicted of SEGI membership. Last year there were two, one in Loiola (Azpeitia) for five youths and the one in Gernika. These “human walls” have now been constructed in three of the four southern Basque provinces (see video links below): Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Nafarroa – only Álava has yet to have one. Jone Amezaga’s arrest was the fifth occasion of the use of the “human wall” in the Basque Country and the second in the province of Bizkaia.
Amezaga, who refutes the charge and the police “evidence’ of “glorification of terrorism”, has been refused permission to remain at liberty while her appeal is being considered. Also it has been the custom of the Spanish state, in cases where the sentence is less than two years, for the convicted not to be taken to jail. The state declined to apply this custom in Amezaga’s case.
That Monday morning of the 15th December in Gernika, the town containing the ancient meeting place of the Basque chiefs and victim of the infamous bombing by Franco’s German bombers during the Civil War, the stalls were set out for the weekly market as usual. However, a number of events of a political nature also took place and the town was draped in the orange colours of LIBRE (“free” in Spanish), an organization created in 2013 to expose and resist Spanish state repression. Around noon, Jone made her appearance, no doubt marked by undercover police and soon afterwards the police raid took place.
It was plain-clothed police who led the assault, a number of individuals, some seen in the video dressed in black-and-white tops and one in a green top. There is no evidence of their identifying themselves by display of their police cards, for example, but it is clear that Jone’s supporters are in no doubt as to who they are. The Ertzaintza, masked and helmeted, in their red-and-black uniforms soon join the fray and eventually Jone is taken into custody. The crowd chants partly in Castillian and partly in Basque: “Jone libre!” (Free Jone!); “Guard dogs of the System!” “Hired killers!” “Abuse of power!”
While awaiting her appeal hearing, a wait which can take many months, Jone may be kept in any of the many prisons across the Spanish state (or across the French state, for those arrested there) throughout which political prisoners, most of which are Basque, are dispersed. She may also be transferred without warning to yet another jail. All this places an enormous strain on the visiting relatives and friends of such individuals — a financial, organizational, emotional and physical strain. And of course there are those who through infirmity are unable for journeys of thousands of kilometres. A number of serious traffic accidents occur on those journeys every year and to date twelve Basque prisoners’ relatives and friends thave lost their lives in those accidents..
Photo Basque police injury to 94-year-old woman arm Gernika raid: http://www.naiz.eus/media/asset_publics/resources/000/134/771/news_landscape/emakumea_zauria.jpg?1418662774
Photo Basque police injury to 94-year-old woman leg Gernika raid: http://www.naiz.eus/media/asset_publics/resources/000/134/772/original/zauritua.jpg
Video police battle with crowd to capture Jone Amezaga – plainclothes police first Dec2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXK9RqGry9Y#t=325
Video police battle with crowd to capture five youth Loiola Sep2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulFkBGNE2_A
Video police battle with crowd to capture five Luis Goňi Oct2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmRb0Nd3jxQ
Video police battle with crowd to capture Urtza Alkorta on Bridge Ondarroa May2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar5FaKwr8L8
Video police battle with crowd to capture five youth Donosti April 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRd4JlbaD08