Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Monday, 28 august 2017 | NEW YORK TIMES


‘I’m Not Afraid’: Barcelona Holds Peace Rally After Deadly Attacks

IMAGE:   Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday to protest against terrorist attacks.

By Raphael Minder
BARCELONA, Spain — Half a million people gathered in the heart of Barcelona on Saturday, clutching roses and holding banners denouncing violence and extremism, but also bearing signs warning against Islamophobia and calling on Spanish leaders to stop selling weapons.

The mass demonstration followed two attacks that killed 15 people last week, including 13 who were mowed down by a van that zigzagged down Las Ramblas, the most famous promenade in Barcelona.

On Saturday, marchers carried banners bearing the defiant message “No tinc por” — Catalan for “I’m not afraid.”
The attacks hit Barcelona at the height of its tourism season. But the violence also came at a critical political moment, as the regional government of Catalonia prepares to hold an independence referendum on Oct. 1 despite strong objections from the government in Madrid and Spain’s judiciary, who say the vote is unconstitutional.
To defuse political tensions, Saturday’s march was led by police officers, paramedics and other members of the emergency services — with King Felipe VI of Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader, following behind them.
Still, many in the crowd held Catalan separatist flags and booed every time the monarch’s face appeared on the big screens. Amid a sea of Catalan flags, Sergio Fernández, a local truck driver, held a Spanish flag and described the booing of Spain’s king by some of his fellow Catalans as shameful.
“We came here to condemn killers, not to insult our king,” he said. “I’m from Barcelona, but Spain is of course my country.”
Last week’s attacks were claimed by the Islamic State and carried out by a terrorist cell whose members were mostly born in Morocco. Several participants in Saturday’s march held up signs warning against Islamophobia in the wake of the violent attacks. One of the speakers who addressed the crowd on Saturday was a leading voice from the local Muslim community, Míriam Hatibi.

But a few who attended the rally called for stricter migration restrictions, including Sonia García, a schoolteacher.

“Fifteen years ago, you never saw anyone from another country here and now we’ve got neighborhoods that almost feel like being in Morocco,” she said. “I’m not saying we should stop them from being here, but if you open your door, you must know who’s coming in and keep some control over them.”
Veronica Gómez, a hospital employee who attended the march, held a sign directed at members of the Islamic State that read, “The end is coming and nobody will remember you, nobody will cry for you.”
She choked back tears as she recounted fielding phone calls from people who were searching for missing relatives and friends in the hours after the attack on Las Ramblas.

“I had to tell utterly distressed people that I had no idea what happened to their loved ones and where they might be- and that was just horrible,” she said. “I couldn’t get the names of some of the missing people out of my head for two days after that.”
As the march ended, some participants walked over to applaud officers of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, who monitored Saturday’s demonstration. They left roses on the windscreens of the police vehicles.

“We’ve seen in the past week how strong Barcelona is and how well Catalan society and the Mossos can manage a real tragedy,” said Montse Casaponsa, a 60-year old teacher. “Today should never have been about our politics, and if our politicians also wanted to be here, they should only have joined us as ordinary citizens.”

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia