Barcelona police dispersed 1,639 people in "more normal" night than Saturday's
Sàmper says they expected celebrations over end of curfew and are confident that the impact on the pandemic will be "small"
BarcelonaAfter the large crowds after the first night without curfew, the situation was more "normal" yesterday in Barcelona, as explained by City Security Councillor Albert Batlle in an interview with Radio 4. The police dispersed 1,639 people from places like the Passeig del Born, Plaça de la Virreina de Gràcia or Plaça dels Àngels, as confirmed to ARA by municipal sources, while Saturday night the police had to disperse about 6,500 people in various outdoor celebrations. According to Batlle, what was experienced in the streets on Saturday night could not be avoided because people, after so many months of curfew, were eager to go out, and the police deployed saturation devices that sought to limit gatherings, but did not hand out fines to those gathering. Batlle detailed that in total there were 450 agents deployed and that this was "manifestly insufficient" for the number of people who were on the street. "We can not have a police officer for each person," he admitted.
Batlle admitted that in many cases agents and revellers played a game of "cat and mouse" and, when the police cleared a location, they gathered at a different one. However, he pointed out that there were no moments of tension except for two arrests for crimes of resistance and disobedience, when two refused to stop drinking and leave a square in Gràcia. "Nothing serious happened that was not foreseeable," he concluded. The police imposed 600 fines.
A similar diagnosis was made by the Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Sàmper, who has defended on RAC1 that the epidemiological data allowed this opening because, according to the Health Department, the system is prepared to sustain a small resurgence. In any case, Sàmper trusted that the same will happen as over Easter, when the impact on pandemic data was "mild". "We are convinced that incidence will be mild," he said.
The Minister insisted that the majority of people who took to the streets after midnight on Sunday (about 10,000 only in Barcelona, according to his calculations) did so in compliance with health standards but that the images that did the rounds are those "of the minority" that did not comply. He defended that the police operation counted on "the maximum possible" amount of officers, taking into account the availability of agents. He was also confident that after the first night, the intensity will decrease and a new curfew will not be necessary. A decision, however, that has been conditioned to the evolution of the data and the incidence of new variants such as the one originated in India.
Sàmper has also advanced that on Friday he met with representatives of the nightlife sector to begin to address a plan for a gradual reopening. He has advanced that premises with outdoors spaces will be allowed to open first and that the recovery of activity will be done "slowly" to avoid having to reimpose restrictions.
On the other hand, Catalan police spokesperson Joan Carles Molinero has explained in statements to Tv3 he believes the orderly reopening of nightlife would be positive to avoid weekend street parties. "Everything that allows to expand the range of possibilities for people to release this energy accumulated in pandemic will be positive," he said, adding that "any situation that allows to decongest this need to go out on the street on a massive scale and without taking appropriate measures is welcome".
Spanish government's "neglect of duty"
Sàmper criticised a "certain neglect of duty" by the Spanish government for not enabling clear tools that would allow regions to set restrictions without the state of alarm and leave the criteria in hands of the courts.