Young people and covid beyond the riots
The riots against the anti-covid restrictions this weekend in different Spanish cities have caught both the police and the political class completely unprepared. There is a certain amount of confusion because, coming as we do from a particularly deadly first wave, it is surprising that someone would refuse to follow the indications of the authorities and turn their anger into violence. The first police investigations point to extreme right-wing groups that have infiltrated demonstrations of different kinds to provoke the riots.
In Barcelona, the demonstrations on Friday night were particularly shocking, with images of the looting of different shops giving the protest a more criminal, and even playful, air than strictly ideological. The appeasing messages of the Vox MP for Barcelona, Ignacio Garriga, feed the hypothesis of far-right involvement.
On Saturday, scenes of violence were repeated in Barcelona with less intensity after a demonstration against the eviction of the Casa Buenos Aires, where there were people of the opposite political persuasion. The same images have been seen, however, in cities such as Málaga, Logroño, Bilbao and Madrid, where they were particularly violent and dozens of people were arrested.
It is very likely that the extreme right, which has been feeding conspiracy theories and denial throughout the pandemic, is behind the violence in the streets. But this should not spare us from reflecting in depth on the tiredness and the feeling of dejection that has fallen upon a very important part of the population, especially the young.
In Spain, youth employment rate (young people between 16 and 29 years of age who work) has fallen below 50%; specifically, it has lost 7.1 points, to 43.8%. And 16.2% of young people neither study nor work. If, to the economic disaster, we add the authorities' erratic communication policy and an image of confusion between the different levels of administration and tension between the parties, it is not surprising that there is social unrest.
Beyond police persecution of groups of violent instigators and discrediting the far-right's fake news about covid, the Catalan and Spanish governments need to get their act together and see if the youngest sector of the population is being sufficiently protected from the negative consequences of the pandemic. We are thinking of the thousands of young people who have to study at home without having the proper infrastructure, of the thousands who have lost their jobs in the tourism sector or in commerce, of those who, not having an income to own a home, live with their parents or have had to share a tiny space during lockdown.
We run the risk that the pandemic will leave an entire generation without a future: those who are finishing their studies or have just begun their working lives and now see everything collapsing around them.