Indepedenzia Day: The Basque people may disapprove of ETA’s tactics, but they are still determined to gain independence. (Sarah Wildman, 08.25.06, American Prospect)
Every year, in the Basque city of San Sebastian, demonstrators seeking independence gather hours before the commencement of “Semana Grande,” a week-long festival of bull fights, outdoor concerts, and fireworks. In years past, it wasn’t uncommon for Molotov cocktails to be lobbed from the crowd towards the police, who responded in kind. Last summer 20 protestors were injured — hit by rubber bullets fired by the police when the crowd grew violent. The day before this year’s protest, a Basque woman in her late twenties told me that, throughout her teens, violent clashes with the police took place frequently. She would be minding her own business in Parte Vieje, the old city, and suddenly a Pamplona-like stampede would come rushing down the street and sweep her up. She would then dive into the nearest bar, whereupon the barkeep would quickly rattle down the metal “We’re closed” cage until the violence ceased.
This year was the first Semana Grande protest since the violent Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom) announced its ceasefire back in March. Hours before the demonstration, many in town weren’t sure it would take place — Madrid’s famous Judge Baltazar Garzon initially banned the protest, accusing ETA’s political arm, Batasuna, of organizing the event. In the end, ETA’s signature snake and axe were nowhere to be found. Only the flag of Euskal Herria, the Basque region, remained.
ETA may not have been there (though members were spotted in the crowd by the local media), but the Basque quest for independence appears undimmed.
A people who think of themselves as a nation are one.