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Madrid bans Barcelona’s yellow-lit fountains, which ‘plug separatism’

With elections in Catalonia approaching, Madrid has unleashed a crackdown on an unlikely target: fountains lit up in yellow are banned in Barcelona. The argument is that the illumination promotes separatist views.

The move by the local branch of the Spanish electoral commission was spearheaded by the lawmakers of Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP). Alberto Fernandez, the speaker for PP in Barcelona City Council, decried the earlier decision by the council to light up fountains yellow in solidarity with the families of the jailed Catalonian officials and pro-independence activists.  Fernandez stated that it amounts to open support for the Catalan independence cause.

The election board sided with PP, citing a law that forbids public bodies to use images “coinciding or similar to those used in the campaigns by any party running the elections” ordering the council to shut down the illumination within 24 hours on Wednesday.

Applauding the decision by the council, which also outlaws yellow illumination of public buildings, Fernandez said that the solidarity gesture by Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau was “not only insulting to all Catalans in Barcelona who feel Spanish, but also infringing electoral law and violating the duty to be politically neutral.”

Labelling the ban “ridiculous,” Colau said she would nevertheless comply with the decision. She also took aim at PP, saying that it is deluding itself in thinking that changing a fountain color will help to restore democratic order to the country.

Locals who spoke to RT also seemed to be less than enthralled with the move.

“It seems silly to me, because yellow is just a normal color. I think it’s a desperate campaign by politicians trying to stop the independence movement,” a woman in Barcelona told RT.

“They ban yellow, but another color can be used. That’s just absurd,” a man opined, echoing the general sentiment.

The ban might be symbolic, but it won’t change how people are going to vote, another woman argued:

“It’s pointless, everybody has already decided how they will vote on [December] 21, and that won’t change by seeing yellow or any other color.”

About 20 Barcelona fountains had been shining yellow since Friday after a respective proposal was backed by the majority of parties in the city council, with PP opposing the move.

Earlier, the Electoral Commission had ordered the council to pull down a banner from City Hall calling for “freedom for political prisoners”.

The early parliamentary elections were called by the Spanish government, which has been applying direct control to the rebellious region after the unilateral declaration of independence by the now-deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont on October 27. Spain’s Supreme Court declared the referendum unconstitutional, with key government figures and parliamentary activists having been arrested and held on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona protesting the crackdown and demanding the release of eight former members of the Catalan parliament. Many of the activists were wearing yellow ribbons, used as a symbol of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC)

Meanwhile Puigdemont, who along with four of his former ministers lives in exile in Belgium, plans to participate in the forthcoming elections despite the threat of extradition, requested by Spain.