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The Spanish interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, received a massive whistling today at the National Police Academy in Ávila, where he presided over the swearing-in ceremony for new Spanish police officers. Eyewitnesses reported that the whistles were in the spectators' stands, intended for the new officers' family members. All this happened after this week the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, recalled the 2017 assignment of thousands of riot police to Catalonia ahead of the 1st October independence referendum and he did so using the popular label that the largely-unpopular security forces were given: Piolins, or Piolines - that is, the Spanish and Catalan names for the Looney Tunes cartoon character known in English as "Tweety Pie". The reason for this nickname: hundreds of them were lodged on a hired cruiseship in the port of Barcelona which featured massive images of Tweety Pie and other cartoon characters on its sides. The utterance irritated some police unions, who consider it contemptuous and inappropriate in the mouth of a Spanish PM.

In Congress, Pedro Sánchez's was making a point to the opposition Partido Popular: "The difference is that when you were in government, you sent Piolines to Catalonia, while today, the Spanish football team can play a match there without any problems." Here's the speech:    

The whistling ended up dominating Friday's institutional event, but the minister tried to downplay it. He said that "he accepts everything" although in his opinion those who whistled were "few". "The important thing was all the applause that silenced that whistling," he said. The minister attributed to a "false controversy" the mention of the Warner Brothers cartoon character by the prime minister, and noted that it was an "embarrassment" that the PP government housed police officers on ships during the Catalan referendum. "We all remember the images. Those were ships in the Port of Barcelona where our men and women, in difficult times when they were required to put in extra effort and demand, were not treated with the necessary dignity they deserved", he continued.

"It's the shame of the PP, which still has this shame and doesn't know how to get rid of it: we all saw how they treated our cops," and he noted how Spanish police and Civil Guards have now received a salary increase of "25% on average", and as well, more than 10,000 officers have been recovered. The press asked him about the security operation for the return to Spain of the fugitive ex-king, Juan Carlos I, of which he avoided giving details due to operational reasons. He only said that it was a "precise" deployment, as in other similar circumstances.

The JUPOL police trade union, the union with the largest representation on the Spanish Police Council, has been particularly critical of Sánchez's statements, expressing its "deep displeasure" at his use of the cartoon character nickname. JUPOL refers to them as "agents of the National Police who went to Catalonia in October 2017 to ensure compliance with the law during the illegal 1st October referendum." However, the brave officers, despite bashing quite a few heads, were unable to stop Catalans from voting.


Below, capture of Google Trends graph showing how Google searches in Spain on the word "Piolín" surged just before October 2017 (even more in Madrid than in Catalonia)

piolin google trends
Piolín / Google Trends