Two million Catalans braved the threat of a police boot in the face to demand independence. As with Scotland and Greece, this was a modern, cosmopolitan form of nationalism
The first group that tried to build the barricade were schookids. They linked the crash barriers together across the alleyway and tied them with an inch-thick cable. The next group, young men with wispy stubble and girls in hoodies, expressed contempt: they wanted to heap the barriers on top of some bags of cement instead. As they discussed the options, a third group arrived, dismantled the original structure and rebuilt it as a 20ft-deep fascine.
This was at the Escola Industrial on Sunday evening, a university complex serving as a polling station in Catalonias independence referendum. The vote had been deemed illegal by the Spanish state, but mandatory by the Catalan government, whose majority had been constructed around a single issue: independence or bust.
By now images of police violence against peaceful voters, old and young, were zipping across social media. Old people pulled to the ground; fleeing women hit with batons; a man jumped on down half a flight of stairs by a fully armoured riot cop . These pictures were horrifying Europe, but the thousands of people milling in the school courtyard did not look frightened or surprised.
After the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, and the Greek vote to reject austerity in June 2015, people who resist the economic and social order in Europe know that state-backed scare tactics are part of the deal.
Though brutal, the Guardia Civil actions on Sunday were calculated: in the selection of riot squads from outside areas, where casual hatred of Catalans is rife; in the targeting of old people and women; and in the pinpoint nature of the interventions, which people on the barricades thought were concentrated on middle-class areas.
There were thousands of riot cops on hand, on ships in the harbour. If Madrid had wanted to, it could have confiscated every ballot box within minutes and, for good measure, jammed the smartphone app the Catalan authorities were using to tally the results against the electoral roll. But prime minister Mariano Rajoy wanted to send a subtler message: let the most fervent separatists have their vote and get their heads broken, while scaring the rest of the population into non-participation, including any waverers.
At the six polling stations I visited in the north and east of Barcelona, only one had been shut down. Behind the smashed window of the Joan Fuster community centre were two 15-year-old boys in baseball caps, guarding a single ballot box they had hidden from the riot police. But voters had simply moved to other polling stations: the back end of the queue for the nearest one was just yards away.
For the whole day voting was slow, because the websites were being jammed, said election officials. But it still happened. Thats why, amid the baton slaps and rubber bullets, two million people managed to cast a countable vote, with 90% voting Yes to independence. And as they voted, it looked to me like a modern cosmopolitan nation was being born. Thats a rare event in the era of globalisation, but it might not be the last.