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Thousands of people gathered in Barcelona's central Plaça Sant Jaume on Saturday afternoon to protest against the death of the dog Sota, shot and killed by a member of the city's Guardia Urbana police force on Tuesday. The protest, called by animal rights political party Pacma, demanded the resignation of the head of the city police body and called on mayor Ada Colau to "determine who is responsible." Over 3,500 people attended the protest, an unprecedented size for a mobilization on this kind of issue.

Specifically, the Pacma rally was called in protest at the "confused and corporate explanations" which they consider that the Barcelona City Council has given so far, as well as to demand the implementation of specific protocols for the protection of animals. Last Wednesday, hundreds of people filled the city square in an earlier protest to demand action against those responsible and prevent the case from going unpunished.

Translation: Hundreds of people gathering now at Barcelona's Plaça Sant Jaume to demand Justice for Sota! Her tragic death because of a shot from a Barcelona Guardia Urbana officer cannot go unpunished — PACMA (Animalist Party Against the Mistreatment of Animals)

The incident in which Sota died took place last Tuesday near Plaça Espanya. The police officer had asked the dog's owner, a young homeless man, to produce ID. According to the city police, the dog then attacked the officer, and in response, the officer shot the animal. The dog had already begun to bite the policeman's arm, according to the Guardia Urbana, and this threatened his physical integrity.

However, both Pacma (Animalist Party Against Animal Abuse) and other organizations have received several eye-witness accounts with differing versions of the incident. One of the most repeated accounts explains that the police wanted to arrest Sota's owner, who "usually lived in the neighbourhood", specifically in the carpark belonging to the nearby Hotel Ayre. After several police officers forced the man to the ground, the dog became excited and reacted by jumping on a policeman, who shot him in self-defence.

The circulation on social media of a video of the tragic incident filmed by an eye-witness increased public concern about the case:

Translation: TERRIBLE! The police go as far as shooting a dog in #Barcelona. It is inadmissible that a City Council that proclaims itself to be animalist resolves problems with animals by shooting. We demand urgent explanations to determine the reasons for this terrible death. Video BIMAR MENDEZ. — PACMA 

A further aspect of the case, as El Nacional learned, is that the dog was being evaluated to be part of a social project. FAADA, the Foundation for Advice and Action in Defence of Animals had for months been in contact with the owner and the animal to include them in its 'Best Friends' project, a project being carried out by the foundation in collaboration with the Barcelona City Council's social services department.

However, in a press statement, the Guardia Urbana has justified the officer's action saying that he had no other "option" and acted "in defence of his physical integrity." According to the statement, the action that prompted the police intervention was not a telephone call asking for action to be taken, but rather, a patrol car in the area had stopped when the officers saw a "dog off its lead, without a muzzle and that appeared to belong to a breed regarded as potentially dangerous, wandering freely" and for that reason they asked the owner to show his ID.