Tear gas. Fire. Cancelled flights. Police batons. Thousands of people in Catalonia have rallied in support of the region’s independence from Spain for a second-day, with some attempting to storm government offices in Barcelona, and many more clashing with police.
This follows the Monday sentencing of nine Catalan separatist leaders with 9-13 year sentences, given for organising an unconstitutional independence referendum in 2017. While only 44% of the Catalan population want to leave, it would appear many more were in favour of the vote.
To that end, “A spokesperson for Catalonia’s regional government, Meritxell Budó, said they… understood the anger of the protesters,” (BBC). Spanish authorities, however, are investigating who is co-ordinating the disruption, and are not so empathetic.
This sentiment appears to be shared by American and Australian tourists (and expats) who are not too happy to have their flights delayed and their iconic Barcelona experience disrupted.
In Barcelona, trying to find your Airbnb pic.twitter.com/TpqqNpvmHI
— WEAYL (@WEAYL) October 15, 2019
It’s not just tourists though, with many Barcelona residents also appearing disgruntled…
One more example of the fascism of these catalan independents.
Set fire to a clothing store.
These are not paceful protest.
This is violence, pure and hard.
Tomorrow they’ll say it’s a lie.
That they’re good people, but here’s the reality!#catalanfascism#barcelona pic.twitter.com/hi0FCD9rsV
— Azotaor (@azotaor) October 16, 2019
While we won’t pretend we can answer an issue that frustrates world-class diplomats and the UN, we would be remiss not to rib the tourist trend of celebrating a culture for its differences right up until the point that it means copping a cancelled flight.
Though I have written about Australia’s fetishisation of European culture (and slammed our pink flamingo obsession), to be fair: I am guilty of this myself. Which means I see exactly where the following temporary Barcelona resident was coming from in his analysis of yesterday’s riots, whilst acknowledging the unctuous tone.
Quite a scene as protests get heated tonight in #Barcelona right under our window on Passeig de Gracia … police being attacked, riot gear SWAT teams shooting smoke bombs, helicopters overhead and bonfires in the streets as smoke rises everywhere. pic.twitter.com/NLYhiStQRV
— Eyal Gutentag (@eyalgutentag) October 15, 2019
Other Twitter users, apparently from Barcelona themselves, were quick to pick up on this, encouraging him to get out in the street and join them…
That’s not Rojava, Syria or Turkey.
This is #Barcelona!
Catalonia resists the fascist Spanish state. Barricades burning on the streets. Yesterday many Catalan politicians were sentenced to high prison sentences. Remembers on fascist Turkey against Kurds! #RevoltaPopular pic.twitter.com/CySXBeBIB1
— Riseup4Rojava (@RISEUP4R0JAVA) October 15, 2019
“Police is [sic] attacking protesters, and they are protecting themselves. Get out and have a close look,” one said. “Did you mistake your window for a TV,” commented another.
“We are fighting for democracy. Come down and joing us.”
That said, the other point of view is that whether you believe in the aims of the separatist movement or not, blockading the airport and causing hundreds of people (both locals and tourists) to miss flights for which they will not be reimbursed, is a terrible way to engender sympathy for your cause.
People of this school of thought also point out that: while separatists like to paint themselves as an undertrodden, baton-flayed population, they live in one of the most socio-economically privileged cities in the world, and only get their asses handed to them when they demand more. While there’s something to this, these kinds of ‘you’re more privileged than you know’ observations are routinely made to discredit all kinds of social movements (see: Andrew Bolt’s think piece on Greta Thunberg).
In light of this, we would argue that – though we all like to consider ourselves open-minded and impartial – when it comes down to it, most people’s perspective on the protests all rests on whether or not they agree with the core movement. In other words: if you are really convinced of a historical injustice (whether that be of climate change or Catalonia royalty choosing the wrong side in a 1714 war), you’ll say a few missed flights (or days off school) are worth it (and if not, you most likely won’t).
Or if you don’t know any of the historical background and all you know is your European jaunt just got a few hundred dollars more expensive, you’ll tweet your outrage, before returning to brag about your cultural awakening on Instagram.