In the crossfire between accusations of being soft on street violence and allegations of condoning police brutality, the acting Catalan vice president Pere Aragonès made a press appearance this Monday afternoon to make a "call for calm" after six consecutive nights of youthful protest, rioting and clashes with police in Barcelona and other Catalan cities. The acting head of the Catalan executive criticized the acts of vandalism and defended the Mossos d'Esquadra police. At the same time, he called on the public to demonstrate peacefully, and asked the political parties to take a "calm" approach in addressing the debate on public order, which must be carried out, he said, while "protecting the work of the professionals".
He began his address by stressing the "commitment of the government to the right to protest", supporting the 17,000 Mossos police officers and pointing out that if people act "incorrectly", there will be a response. Aware of the public indignation with the damage caused during the riots, Aragonés issued a warning that "the looting of shops, the burning of street furniture or confrontation with public workers are not covered by the rights to free speech and assembly".
A unit specializing in public order
The message of Aragonés, however, was also for the other political forces. The revolt in the streets has coincided directly with the start of negotiations to form a new Catalan government. The left-wing pro-independence CUP has seen its position strengthened to demand some of its long-time demands more strongly, such as the dissolution of the BRIMO riot squad and the banning of foam projectiles. Two requests that the anti-capitalists have put as a sine qua non condition to continue in the talks.
On this discussion, the vice-president is in favour of opening the issue of the policing questions without rushing, once the new Parliament has been formed, "within the framework of the new legislature" and listening to the experts. “No sudden decisions can be made,” he concluded. In any case, he defended that as a complete police force, "when there are disturbances of public order" the Mossos d'Esquadra body "must be able to intervene". From his point of view, "it is always better for there to be a part of the agents that are specialized, trained and equipped for that task." Thus, "it is important that there is this specialized area within the body."
Aragonés, who is currently the only candidate with real options to be sworn in as the next Catalan president, has called on the other parties to avoid "turning this situation into a political pim-pam-pum". This Monday, the Catalan Socialists have asked the acting vice president to appear in Parliament to give explanations about the riots of recent days. Aragonès has confirmed he is at the disposal of Parliament.