Like many people across Europe, I've been watching news reports of the brutal methods used by Spanish police to try and prevent the Catalan regional government from holding a referendum on independence from Spain, with increasing horror.
We always have to remind ourselves that Spain was a fascist dictatorship in the heart of Europe for over 40 years and even after 'democracy' was restored, many features of the Fascist dictatorship were retained.
I was reminded of this when I was in Madrid in 2006 and unexpectedly witnessed the Spanish Riot police getting ready for an evenings entertainment.
By accident, I stumbled on a once a year festival which takes place in a Madrid church. If you are able to get to the alter during a once a year 24 hour period, you will be granted 'three wishes'.
I realised what I had come across when I chanced upon a huge queue of about 5000 elderly ladies, all dressed in black outside the church waiting for the opening of the doors. They were very determined, hunched with old age and poverty and waiting for a chance to bring their families some much needed good fortune.
Facing them were some fairly hefty Catholic Priests, who certainly looked as if they could keep order at quite a rowdy football match.
Much worse was a long line of riot police, also dressed in black, in full armoured riot gear, waving night sticks and banging them provocatively against riot shields every so often.
The little old ladies, who could have been any ones grannies, were facing some very rough treatment - they were up against the church and the State, both given huge powers under Franco and only too ready to misuse them.
It was a sinister and really nasty atmosphere and I've seen a few riots in my time. As they say it was all about to 'go off' and my main concern was to get out of there as quickly as possible.
I have no doubt that the hair pulling, kicking, rubber bullets and tear gas used by the riot police against Catalans queuing up to vote in their referendum is typical of policing in Spain and that later that evening a lot of violence was going to be used against the little old ladies waiting patently for a chance of getting their 'three wishes'..
And which may well be why so many people want independence from Spain in the first place.
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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