Hasél case
Society 21/02/2021

Largest protest yet ends with looting

Catalan police detain at least 34 people in demonstrations across Catalonia

Germán Aranda
3 min
Mossos in front of a looted shop on Passeig de Gràcia

BarcelonaThe hard police charges, the looting of shops and the burned containers has spread like a stain through the center of Barcelona again this Saturday in the fifth day of protests, the most multitudinous with more than 6,000 demonstrators, according to municipal sources. There were also protests in Tarragona, Lleida, Girona, Mataró and Sabadell. The Mossos d'Esquadra have arrested 34 people in total for acts related to public disorder and acts of looting, 31 of them in Barcelona.

The march started peacefully in Plaça Universitat with police officers initially observing. But chaos quickly broke out when the first police charges and throwing of objects by demonstrators broke out in Plaça Urquinaona, with a rapid dispersal of demonstrators throughout the city, unlike what had happened in previous days. 

With the advance of the Mossos vans, the protest quickly dissolved when it had barely begun. The protesters did not stay together and, although the largest group went up towards Lesseps leaving a trail of burnt containers in Gran de Gràcia, many others spread out through the Eixample. On their way up Passeig de Gràcia, some of them ransacked Nike, Kenzo, Versace and Tommy Hilfiger stores, but the hardest charges came on Gran de Gràcia street, where the protesters were encapsulated by the police. The clashes continued later in Plaça de Lesseps.

Mossos and protesters are confronted in Barcelona

Groups of hooded men have broken shop windows of international brands such as Kenzo, Mango or Nike, and a dealership in Diputació street and Passeig de Gràcia, and, in cases where they have managed to get inside, they have taken clothes and other objects, although many of the downtown businesses had tried to shield themselves from theft and destruction by covering the windows with cardboard and wood. A lit container was thrown at the Exchange and burnt at the entrance, which was left with broken glass. However, no interior damage was caused because the building was armored, foreseeing attacks. Motorcycles have also been burned and several barricades have been erected with containers and wood, but in smaller quantities than on previous nights because the City Council wanted to be on the safe side. Throughout the day the municipal brigades have removed more than 500 containers from the streets.

The tension has moved to Gràcia, where the Mossos have charged and there have been races into the narrow streets of the neighborhood. A very large group has gone up to Lesseps square and along the way they have made barricades with burned containers along Gran de Gràcia. In Plaça Lesseps, some youths broke the cobblestones to use them as throwing stones. Irídia association has denounced that in this point the agents have charged hard and have left several injured by blows of truncheons to the head and body that have been attended by the volunteers of Sanitaris per la República. The Emergency Medical Service (SEM) has reported two injured, one of whom had to be transferred to a hospital.

Looting of a shop on Passeig de Gràcia

On the way down from Gràcia, from where most of the demonstrators returned, there were again clashes with the police. A young girl, when the demonstration was already quite dissolved, threw herself against the Mossos, who held her back. Both in Gràcia and in the Eixample, demonstrators erected barricades with containers, despite the fact that the City Council had removed most of them. Also some groups of young people tore cobblestones from the ground to use them as stones. The first to do so, they threw them against historic mosaics and glass windows of the Palau de la Música. Its foundation, which has yet to assess the material damage, explained that at the time of the attack there were about 300 people inside attending one of the scheduled concerts, who had to take shelter until the attackers left the area.

Organizers of the march, such as the Telegram channel La partida final, dissociated themselves from these events. During the protests there were also some clashes between demonstrators. In Lesseps square, a group of young people who were burning barricades removed the motorbikes that another young person had tried to add to the fire, saying that it was about "going against the system, not against the neighbours". This division of opinions on how to organize the destruction is always alive in the protests. There are those who loot chaotically and those who ask for more focus and strategy.

In the midst of the debate on the police action, from the human rights center Irídia denounced the presence of three agents with foam launchers that did not carry the mandatory identification number, as well as "a punishment charge" that encapsulated with vans tenths of people in Gràcia and put them in danger, they stated in a message on Twitter.

Fifth day of demonstrations for the imprisonment of Pablo Hasél
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