Iñaki Sagardoi Leuza (Public University of Navarre) spent a month in Reno at the Center for Basque Studies to conduct research for his PhD dissertation in Sociology and Social Anthropology. In his lecture, he analyzed how seven years after ETA was dissolved, the paradigm of “Basque terrorism” is still present in Spanish political discourse. He presented a case study in which this discourse is invoked in the context of a 3 am bar fight in a small town in Navarre.
The bar fight that took place in Altsasu (Navarre) in the early hours of 15 October 2016 made news in practically all of Spain. Accordingto the first news of the most relevant Spanish newspapers, a couple of of Spanish policemen (known as Civil Guards) and their partners had been “attacked” by about 50 people linked to the Basque radical nationalist left. They basically featured the version of the Spanish Government delegation in Navarre, which also reported that two of the aggressors had been arrested. Pascale Davies, journalist for The Guardian, subtitled her story about the “Altsasu Case” as follows: “Spanish high court to rule on whether pub punch-up with off-duty police was drunken scuffle or terror attack” (The Guardian, April 14 2018). Less than a month later, following a complaint of “terrorism in connection with a hate crime” by COVITE or Basque Victims of Terrorism Association in the National Court, eight people were arrested on November 14, 2016. The trial began on 16 April 2018. The Public Prosecutor’s Office maintained its position and argued that the incident was “low-intensity terrorism, heir to the terrorism that attacked the Basque Country and Navarre,” and that the young people of Altsasu were “heirs to a political ideology.” This conclusion was very much in line with the attestation and the reports drawn up by the Civil Guard which, curiously, had been charged with investigating the aggression against two of its agents. Finally, the court rejected the accusations of terrorism, considering that the terrorist purpose had not been proved. The maximum sentence of 79 years for crimes of “attacking” authority agents, “injuries, public disorder and threats” were issued.
Besides working on his dissertation, Iñaki found time to learn more about American culture and Reno. “My month in Reno has served me not only to get to know the city and its beautiful outskirts, but also to immerse myself in a university system remarkably different from ours. When landing in this steppe of neon lights, it is impossible to deny an initial culture shock. But once you overcome it, you feel that you begin to know something more about American culture. It has been surprising, too, to feel the warmth of this small Basque island on the other side of the ocean.”