Ester Quintana is 42 years old. For the past few years, she has divided her life between her professional career in the catering industry and her cultural and social concerns. From her work places in the Sant Martí and Parc-Sandaru Community Centres, she has provided free and accessible popular culture to the local communities, to everyone’s benefit. For this reason, Ester is well known in her own neighbourhood, Sant Martí, where she has always been a part of the cultural and social network.
On Wednesday, November 14th, her life took an unexpected and terrible turn because of an attack she suffered. We don’t know who is responsible for this attack but we do know their profession. That day, a little before nine pm, as Ester returned home with some friends having taken part in a legal demonstration held in support of the national strike, a projectile shot by a member of the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan autonomous police force) hit her in the face, causing serious injury including the loss of her left eye, several bone fractures around the eye socket and of her cheekbone and jaw, as well as other damage to her nose and mouth.
Ester ended up having emergency surgery and must undergo further surgical interventions; how many and when they will take place is as yet to be determined. There is no set date for a return to normal life, because nothing will ever be the same. Her natural state and her vision have been permanently affected, as have her social status and family situation.
She is not the first victim of these projectiles. Over the past years many people in our country have ended up in the same position. Rubber bullets and other like projectiles do not discriminate by age, by gender or even by political affiliation. Rubber bullets can affect absolutely anyone. They are a dangerous weapon, at times lethal – as was tragically demonstrated recently in the streets of Bilbao – and their capacity to cause damage increases when they are illegally fired directly at people.
We, Ester’s friends, are convinced that the use of such projectiles in a democratic society is immoral, and as we are aware that governments have other methods of crowd control at their disposal, we support the associations that demand their use be banned. At the same time, we feel ignored by the Councillor for Home Affairs, who, faced with the demonstrable facts, declared that on that Wednesday no projectiles were fired. We therefore add our voices to the public and ever more clamorous demand that he resign, given the disproportionate and consistently repressive measures he enforces as a response to any social or community protest.
A society whose citizens are afraid of demonstrating will never be a free society.