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A thousand people have gathered in the town of Sant Andreu de la Barca, near Barcelona, to show their support for nine teachers accused of a hate crime. The rally to express rejection of what is seen as judicial persecution of the teachers took place on Tuesday in front of the town hall of this community, and attracted local residents, groups and individuals from the educational community and students of the centre itself, in solidarity with the nine teachers of the local high school El Palau.

The accusations against the teachers relate to events following the Catalan independence referendum on October 1st. On the referendum day itself, the El Palau school was used as a polling station and was one of many locations where Civil Guard officers used force to enter the school and confiscate ballot boxes. In fact, there is a Civil Guard barracks in Sant Andreu and many children of the officers are students at the school. The nine teachers have been accused of making humiliating comments to some children of these officers, as well as making biased interpretations of the police action on the referendum day.

The main slogan of Tuesday's mobilization was "I too am a teacher at El Palau" - a show of solidarity with the teachers. The polarization over the issue has increased in recent days with the publication by Madrid newspaper El Mundo of an article featuring the personal details and photographs of the nine teachers, an article whose support for the case against the teachers was backed by a tweet from Citizens (Cs) party leader Albert Rivera - which also included the photos of the nine people accused. Subsequently, graffiti appeared outside the school, giving the names of the teachers and calling them "nazis". These latest events were behind Tuesday's show of support. 

At the rally, a former student of the school read a manifesto from the body of current and former pupils and their families, demanding that "the teachers must not be criminalized" through the media. As well, Josep Lluís del Alcázar, teacher at the school, explained that the situation in the centre is "very complicated". "For months we have had to cope with being regularly insulted", said the teacher, saying that the discomfort also extended to the students and their families.

Also present at the demonstration was the head of the Education Board of Catalonia, Lluís Font, who had earlier denounced the "media lynching" of the teachers in a communique, saying that article 155 - under which the Madrid government controls Catalonia under direct rule - "has provoked a toxic context" in the educational community.

Rajoy sends top officials to Sant Andreu

Meanwhile, it has been announced that two senior Spanish government officials, in the fields of security and education, are to visit Sant Andreu de la Barca to meet with those school parents, members of the Civil Guard, who made the accusation against the teachers. 

Spain's interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido is responsible for calling this meeting, according to a press statement. The text says that the two officials have the mission of offering "full support" to these parents "independently of the judicial actions". It also conveys the interior ministry's "indignation" over "attitudes that are antidemocratic, sectarian and unbecoming to an educational centre".