With the death of Franco, the process of democratization of the dictatorial regime was forced from below by a multitude of social struggles. One of these mobilizations was led by COPEL, a movement that wanted to put an end to the dictatorship’s prison regime. After 40 years, a group of former members of COPEL (Coordinator of Prisoners in Struggle) decide to break the silence to explain the struggle that started this group of common prisoners – or social, as they call themselves – because they were not included in the Amnesty of 1977. An exercise in historical memory that puts the Spanish political transition against the ropes.
At the end of the Franco regime there were more than 14,000 social and political prisoners. After Franco’s death and despite the promulgation of three amnesties and a very limited pardon, more than 8,000 social prisoners remained imprisoned. Many had been convicted under the Law of Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation, a law that penalized behavior the dictatorship considered antisocial, such as drug use and homosexuality. A law aimed at condemning poverty and social exclusion. Faced with the omission of the cause in the amnesty measures, the social prisoners organized to demand freedom and a radical change of the penitentiary system. In August 1976 in the Carabanchel prison, octaves were thrown from the galleries in the yard, the prisoners read them and refused to form. The police charge. The inmates break through the roof of the 4th floor and get out onto the roof where everyone can see them. It is the first time in Spain to see a claim of social prisoners. In December of that year, COPEL was created, with a solidarity and horizontal organizational structure. They claim dignified conditions and believe that there are no common or political prisoners, that all prisoners are the result of an unjust society. The political parties that have agreed on the transition, more interested in achieving quotas of power, than in the rights of common prisoners, stand out. Only the libertarian movement supports them, especially the CNT. It is a fierce struggle, which lasts three years until the dissolution of the movement in 1979, to some extent disabled by the hard drugs entering the prisons with the complicity of the officials. Riots follow, apart from these the only weapons available to the prisoners are self-harm and hunger strikes. The repression is fierce, it must be remembered that at the time more than a third of the prison officials were Forza Nueva militants. COPEL members are isolated and beaten. Agustín Rueda, anarchist militant of the “Autonomous Groups”, who declares himself a member of COPEL, died due to a brutal beating by officials.
This documentary, which has not been broadcast on TV or released in the cinema, has been made for 12 years, with sometimes precarious means, by a group of ex-members of COPEL. At the presentation and subsequent discussion we will have three of its authors: the former COPEL activist Daniel Pont, the former member of the “COPEL Support Committees” Fernando Alcatraz and the producer Gemma Serrahima.
Title: COPEL: A story of rebellion and dignity
Screenplay and direction: Ex Social Prisoners COPEL
Advice and Coordination: Fernando Alcatraz and Gemma Serrahima
Editing and Editing: Pablo Gil with the collaboration of Bernat Granados
Graphic design: Pau Fabregat