Esquerra motion for Catalonia’s Parliament to study how to curb racist acts by police and private security

MCP Ruben Wagensberg: “Racism pervades everything, often invisibly, and is especially serious and violent when what it pervades is the institutions that must ensure the security of all citizens”

The Catalan Parliament has approved the creation of a commission of inquiry into institutional and structural racism encompassing security in Catalonia, at the behest of Esquerra Republicana. The purpose of the commission is to establish a shared diagnosis of the measures to be taken to avoid racial discrimination in the handling of security, both public and private.

As Esquerra Member of the Catalan Parliament (MCP) Ruben Wagensberg explained, the commission seeks to “recognize that we are facing systematic and structural practices” and the first thing to do is to “determine where we stand” by hearing witness from organizations, police forces, unions, specialists and experts, as well as those who may have suffered this wrong. From there, said Mr Wagensberg, “as a Parliament, we must take measures in the form of protocols, legislation or sanctions to eradicate any kind of discrimination in the police forces and in private security.”

The commission of inquiry stems from a motion by Esquerra that had already received majority support of the Catalan chamber on March 5. Since then, the protests to end acts of racism by police have spread throughout the world following the murder of African-American citizen George Floyd in Minnesota. But discrimination also persists in Catalonia.

“One of the most discernible examples of racism by security forces are the instances of stopping and identifying by ethnic profile, and Catalonia is not spared of this,” said Mr Wagensberg. According to data for 2017 supplied by Catalonia’s police, the Mossos d’Esquadra themselves, in their jurisdiction 54.1% of all instances of stopping and identifying were made of foreign persons, when they only represent 13.7% of the Catalan population. Meanwhile, NGO SOS Racisme reveals that 15% of the complaints of racist aggressions it receives are committed by law enforcement, and they often go unpunished because of the difficulties in reporting them to the courts.

“These are aggressions to these persons’ identity, differences in their treatment that plays against social cohesion, and social cohesion begs questions affecting the whole of society,” contended Mr Wagensberg. “Racism is structural, it pervades everything, often invisibly, and is especially serious and violent when what it pervades is the institutions that must in principle guarantee the security of the citizens, of all of them,” he charged, while recalling that there are also flagrant cases in private security: of private guards on public transport or in establishments overreaching their duty and preventing access of youths because of the colour of their skin, being just some of many examples.