Officers of Spain's paramilitary force the Civil Guard have been asking drivers whether or not they are Catalan independence supporters during traffic checks on Catalan highways, according to the local newspaper Regió7. The Spanish force has increased its presence this weekend in the Central Catalonia area around the town of Berga, carrying out what one officer called "counter-terrorism checks" at several points on key local roads.
According to some witnesses quoted by the newspaper, the Civil Guard officers, equipped with long-barrelled weapons and having difficulties understanding Catalan, searched cars from top to bottom, with some drivers stopped for 45 minutes, while in others cases the paramilitary personnel simply checked the ID of the occupants and then let them continue on their way.
AMPLIACIÓ | La Guàrdia Civil preguntava a alguns dels conductors si eren o no independentistes en el «control antiterrorista» a Berga— Regió7.cat (@diariRegio7) 11 d’octubre de 2019
«controls antiterroristes» a Berga https://t.co/249u36zaEH
"The Civil Guard asked some drivers whether or not they were independence supporters at 'anti-terrorist checks' in Berga"— Regió7.cat
However, the action that caused greatest surprise to some drivers was in some cases when the Civil Guard officers had noticed Catalan independence symbols on their cars - bumper stickers, flags, or other items - the security force members asked them about their meaning and whether they were independence supporters.
According to Regió7, in recent days the Civil Guard has stated that its personnel are moving around Catalan territory, but that the reinforcements recently sent by the force from other parts of the Spanish state have not been deployed to specific parts of the territory. However, they admit that they are ready to act in exceptional cases.
The news of the Civil Guard checks coincides with the deployment of extra Spanish police to Catalonia, including 700 Civil Guard personnel, in response to the imminent announcement of the Supreme Court verdicts on 12 pro-independence leaders who were tried earlier this year. It also follows the controversial arrest and preventative imprisonment of 7 Catalan pro-independence activists on terrorism charges on September 23rd, an unusual allegation against a political movement that has become well-known for its peaceful and civic approach.