On Monday, short video clips started appearing on Twitter showing people in several Spanish cities—Córdoba, Huelva and Toledo—cheering loudly and clapping Civil Guard units leaving for anti-referendum duty in Catalonia. More of these clips appeared on Tuesday morning, from cities all around Spain: Murcia, Santander, Algeciras and Guadalajara. More flags, more cheering, and more applause. The chants ranged from "Long live Spain!" or "Long live the Civil Guard!" to the familiar "A por ellos, oéeee, a por ellos, oéeee", heard at football matches, which we might translate in this context as "Go get 'em, lads". One cry heard in Algeciras was somewhat harsher, "hostias como panes", ("kick some arse"), but the rest were mostly normal patriotic stuff with Spain's national flag. In another clip, a small group of National Police motorcyclists could be seen standing to attention on a motorway bridge to salute their colleagues travelling in a convoy towards Catalonia.
Such scenes are not a frequent sight in modern Spain, with the exception of cheering on the national football team at big matches, and the first impression was indeed of citizens waving off soldiers going to fight in a foreign land, perhaps similar to the images seen in Britain in 1982 when the task force was sent off to war to retake the Falkland Islands. Some people were incredulous, even, when the images started to appear, others were embarrassed or shocked. The Spanish flag only normally appears at Popular Party or other right-wing political rallies; at left-wing rallies, the Second Republic or communist flags are preferred; and of course there is the separatist flag-waving Spain has become very used to seeing in Catalonia over the past five years, both at the annual Diada Day events each September and at other pro-independence events, mostly well televised and promoted by the secessionist public relations machine. But any show of Spanish patriotic fervour outside of those specific contexts is extremely rare nowadays.
Other comparisons were made to Serbian nationalism in the 1990s and, of course, to the Franco era. The Spanish Home Office told The Spain Report on Tuesday that the gatherings and flags had not been organised by the central government, but were spontaneous in nature. It is likely that most of the attendees were friends and family of the officers involved, with larger gatherings in some of the cities.
A correct description of what Spain is seeing in these videos is some Spaniards proudly applauding Spanish police who are off not to a foreign war to fight and kill a foreign enemy but to another region of Spain to enforce democratic Spanish law, as enshrined in the Spanish Constitution and applied by Spanish courts and public prosecutors, with the full backing of the Spanish government. Politically the videos will make an impact, but is this not something some Spaniards should or might feel proud of? Is it not understandable that after at least five long years of separatist flag waving and propaganda, some Spaniards wish to support the whole of Spain, including Catalonia and those residents of the region who feel somewhat oppressed by the independence crowd? In this case there is a threat to what they might consider to be the national whole, but it is not foreign attack from abroad that poses the danger. According to Mr. Puigdemont, Catalonia is now only seven days away from an actual declaration of independence, an actual attempt to redraw the map of Spain and remove a fifth of the nation's GDP.