"Older people criminalize us, but they don't ask us why we go out"

ARA talks to different demonstrators from the protests against Hasél's imprisonment

4 min
File image of a demonstration in Barcelona in favour of Hasél's freedom

BarcelonaHundreds of young people have taken to the streets day after day since the arrest of the rapper Pablo Hasél and, disassociating themselves from the vandalism acts for pure entertainment, most of the demonstrators with whom ARA has spoken agree in feeling undervalued and little listened to by the older generations and frightened by a future of work and housing that is not at all hopeful. "We are fed up, very tired. The imprisonment of Hasél has been the straw that broke the camel's back", sums up Eudald Rovira (18), a history student.

Freedom of expression and police repression

"The first two days I went mainly to defend freedom of expression, but then because of the arrests and police repression", says Martí Gorchs (21), a telecommunications engineering student. "I was very shocked that he was arrested at the university", adds Eudald, indignant. On the other hand, Júlia (17), a high school student, had no plans to go out on the street until she saw how the charges of the riot police caused an 18-year-old girl to lose an eye, presumably because of a foam bullet. It was a turning point. "They made me angry", she admits.

They say they don't agree with the behavior of some "infiltrators" or "opportunists" who take the opportunity to loot shops, but criticize that these acts of vandalism are described as violence. "Violence are the evictions", says Martí. Júlia adds: "I'll never break the windows of a shop window of these expensive brands in Passeig de Gràcia or a bank shop, although I don't feel sorry for them either. But I wouldn't understand in any way whatsoever that they would loot a small shop". In any case, they ask that the focus of the debate should not be on the money the containers are worth, but on their demands. "The older generations criminalize us and don't ask us why go out", Martí complains.

Lack of expectations

Although most of them have not yet experienced job insecurity - some are only in the second year of their high school - and do not have to pay for the room in the student flat they share, they are afraid of what awaits them when they finish their degrees and masters: low salaries, one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe, and unaffordable rents. "What worries me the most is the moment I want to become independent", says Martí. "Living with friends is all very well, but I don't want to share a flat until I'm 40", fears Eudald, who, despite the fact that his parents own a sausage factory and will probably always be able to give him a helping hand, he would like to make a good living working in what he has studied. There are others, however, like Sira Montes (20 years old), a student of advertising, marketing and public relations, who works in the afternoons and summers to help her parents pay part of the tuition fees and room rent.


The covid restrictions have also affected the mood of many young people. "I have friends who are in a bad psychological state", Martí regrets. He criticizes that the Govern could have managed it better. In this sense, they celebrate the fact that on 8 March second-year students will be able to return to the university to give classes in person. "Doing the first years of university in the context of the pandemic is very complicated, especially when it comes to university life and making new friends", he laments. They also have classmates who have lost the jobs that helped them pay their tuition fees because of the pandemic.

Frustration and 14-F

All those interviewed, almost as long as they have been aware of it, have been living in crisis and call themselves children of the Catalan independence bid and the feminist struggle. "We've been calling for independence and freedom for political prisoners for many years, and it hasn't helped", Eudald protests. "I still have the thorn in my side from 1-O and I think it will be hard for me to forget what happened", says Júlia. Many have also demonstrated the last 8-M and in other feminist protests, and criticize that their cries do not reach, for example, judges. "It doesn't cost the justice system anything to put a rapper in prison for criticising the king, but then it turns a blind eye to some sexual assaults", Sira compares. "There are too many injustices in the state", adds her friend Ruth Esteve (18), a fashion design student who says she is right-wing.

They also feel disappointed with politicians with whom they had trusted and currently do not see any party capable of picking up and solving their complaints. In fact, although they went to vote - those of legal age - in the Catalan elections on 14 February, they did so reluctantly. "I voted for a government party, which I don't like, but it would be worse if others governed" says Eudald. "I'm going to vote for the CUP, but with my nose plugged, because although it's a minority party, I don't think they're quite up to the task", Martí reflects.

To make themselves heard

"There has come a time when we are no longer talking about Pablo Hasél, we are shouting, we are asking to be heard", said the young influencer Juliana Canet on the Tv3 program Tot es mou. This cut of the video went viral: most of the protesters with whom ARA has spoken had seen it on networks and share much of her speech. "They see us as a lost and lazy generation, who entertain themselves with things they don't understand", says Júlia. "Those who are our parents' age think they're superior", Sira continues, "I'm not saying that experience isn't a degree and all that, but they always underestimate us and look down on us, as if to say 'You'll come to me'."