CLARA BLANCHAR BARCELONA – 28 FEB 2021 –
A hooded man tries to burn down a bank branch in Barcelona. On video, images of the riots.PHOTO: EMILIO MORENATTI (AP) | VIDEO: ATLAS
The attempt to burn a police van of the city police Guardia Urbana in Barcelona, in which there was an agent who was able to escape unharmed, this Saturday during the ninth demonstration to demand the freedom of rapper Pablo Hasél, has set off alarms among police officials, unions, authorities and political parties. They understand that the events, added to the assault on the Mossos police station in Vic 12 days ago, is a leap in the escalation of violence. National, regional and local police unions showed their condemnation and outrage over the violent acts and the attack on the Urban Guard on Sunday. The Sapol union, majority in the Guàrdia Urbana, announced that it will acta as an accusation against the person responsible for attacking and burning a van with a colleague inside. “While the politicians are hiding, we will do what is necessary so that the full weight of justice falls on those responsible”, said the union on social networks. The organization’s spokesman, Jordi Rodríguez Lima, reproached the mayor Ada Colau for not leading the complaint and called for the unity of the political parties in the rejection so that their division does not suppose “the slightest loophole for violence to gain strength”.
The organization secretary of the CSIF union, Eugenio Zambrano, emphasized that Saturday was the first time that the protesters used fire against the police and called for “clear institutional support”, and more human and technical resources: “We need the same means the Mossos of public order have to work in equal conditions, because we are required to work with the same results”.
The unease of the Urban Guard joins that of the Mossos d’Esquadra, who during the last altercations have felt questioned by the Catalan Government. The serious riots on Saturday also take place in a post-electoral political context, when the pro-independence parties are negotiating the formation of a Government and the CUP calls for the dissolution of the Mossos (Brimo) anti-riot brigade, in addition to a new model of public order. Different officials of pro-independence parties have criticized the work of the police squaad, while ERC and Junts have agreed to discuss the security model.
The acting counsillor of Interior, Miquel Sàmper, said in the morning: “We are living a new paradigm, which is violence at the core of security”. Twelve days after the start of the riots in several Catalan cities, the Generalitat and the Barcelona City Council will meet this Monday with commands from the Mossos and the Urban Guard to analyze the situation. The Government will also meet with mayors of other affected municipalities
The Sicme union, of the Mossos d’Esquadra, has shown concern that “everything is focused on public order”. “We do not understand it when it is a bargaining chip when it comes to creating the new Catalan Government”, reproached its organization secretary, Francesc Xavier Carabassa. The same night on Saturday, the SME union, also from the Mossos, affirmed on social networks: “For now, 10 detainees. While some politicians are looking for their chairs, the self-employed, restaurateurs and multiple businesses are attacked and robbed and the police are in the spotlight, shame!”.
The councillor of the Interior, Miquel Sàmper, called “pure, unbridled and unprecedented violence” the riots registered on Saturday during the march, which brought together 4,000 people and ended up with 14 detainees and six slightly injured mossos, he explained. Mayor Ada Colau visited the Ciutat Vella police station where the vehicle was burned together with the Deputy Mayor for Security, Albert Batlle, to express her support for the Urban Guard. The councilor called for the “unanimous rejection of violence” and she has made an appeal “for calm”.
“If the car explodes with an agent inside, we would be talking about a dead person”, warned the councillor of the Interior and distinguished the peaceful protesters from “the 150 or 200 people who are doing pure, unbridled and unprecedented violence”. “They were carrying a lot of incendiary material, even gasoline jugs, at risk for the people who carry it”, he said.
Other police unions expressed their solidarity with the Guardia Urbana on Twitter. The Unified Police Union pointed out that the attack on the Barcelona police is “outright vandalism”. “Taking advantage of Pablo Hasél’s imprisonment to destroy the city is a clumsy excuse and without arguments,” the union considered. The Unified Association of Civil Guards (AUGC) expressed its “outrage” at the fire and condemned what, in its opinion, more than demonstrations, “are actually pure attacks and assaults on the police.” The Ertzaintza ERNE union also expressed solidarity with the agents.
Regarding the police action on Saturday night, the counselor explained that the Mossos d’Esquadra did not charge the protesters or use foam balls “because the officers in charge did not consider it necessary”. “There was no political intervention”, he stressed about the operation. Regarding the future of the Mobile Brigade, the Brimo, whose dissolution is requested by the CUP, Sàmper affirmed that “it cannot be dissolved”. “A country cannot afford not to have a public order unit”, he insisted.
For her part, the mayor of Barcelona asked for a “unanimous condemnation” and warned about the seriousness of the attack on the local police van: “On Saturday there were more serious events than on other days. In addition to the attacks on businesses, we saw an intentional attack on the Guardia Urbana police station and a van with an agent inside burned. It is very serious. It will never be the way, if nothing more serious happened it was a miracle”. The mayor defended that in a democracy “there are police forces to stop abuses against coexistence”. Colau advocated addressing the debate on the public order model in Parliament and has avoided assessing the fact that the CUP does not condemn violence.
ILLA DEMANDS CONDEMNING THE ATTACKS
The leader of the PSC, Salvador Illa, who won the elections [in votes although he tied in seats with ERC], warned yesterday that “whoever does not explicitly condemn violence and does not support the Mossos d’Esquadra and the forces and squads of security is disabled to govern”. He affirmed it when asked why ERC and the CUP announced on Saturday a preliminary agreement to rethink precisely the security model in Catalonia, within the post-electoral negotiations.
The elected MCP and candidate of the CUP, Dolors Sabater, affirmed that the burning of the Urbana van with an agent inside supposes “a risk to life that marks a limit”, but considered that “it is of no use” to condemn the altercations as “if it were the solution”.
During the afternoon of Saturday money tellers, bank offices, shops and also a hotel on the Rambla de Catalunya were attacked, for which the Hotel Guild of Barcelona has condemned “the serious acts” and demanded “political responsibility”. “It is inadmissible that the competent Administrations do not show a firm and unequivocal stance and attitude against these events, allowing them to happen”, they stated in a statement in which they understand that their passive and ambiguous attitude “deprives citizens and the business fabric of their right and its security guarantees”.