On a "hangover Monday" in Barcelona, at the end of the city's festivities for Mercè 2021, some political leaders have apportioned blame for the street violence that marred the annual festa major over the long weekend. The Barcelona city councillor responsible for law and order, Albert Batlle, is very clear: part of the responsibility lies with the Catalan authorities. But not because of the mistakes in designing a Mossos d'Esquadra police operation, which mayor Ada Colau asked for, but because of the alleged lack of respect by the Catalan government and parliament towards the police.
According to Batlle, Catalonia has "a problem" because it is "a country whose president goes to a protest blocking its main communications artery, or the speaker of parliament goes, at the same time as Pablo Hasél protesters are burning down the Mossos police station in Vic, to pay a visit to him in prison". "This does come without a price: it's an image that can have the consequences it has," he said in interviews with both SER Catalunya and TV3 on Monday. The "president" alluded to was former Catalan leader Quim Torra, the "speaker" that Batlle mentioned was current parliamentary leader Laura Borràs.
The three nights of Mercè 2021 in Barcelona saw three successive nights of mass booze parties in different parts of the city, and on Friday and Saturday these ended with serious incidents. On Thursday night, 15,000 people had gathered in Plaça Espanya without incidents. But then more than 40,000 people gathered in the same area on Friday evening, and the night ended with vandalism, looting, injuries and clashes with police. On Saturday, the Mossos d'Esquadra prevented gatherings at Plaça d'Espanya and instead, the party moved to Bogatell beach, where the night was also marked by further incidents, injuries and battles with police.
Government vs Police
The law and order head for Barcelona city reiterated his theory that the origin of the riots is in the attitude of pro-independence politicians. "There is a very important crisis of authority," he said, noting the "lack of respect for the police from the government institutions themselves." "What message are we sending? It seems like there is licence for everything," he noted.
Batlle also recalled that Catalonia has a kind of "anarchist DNA" that facilitates clashes between young people and security forces. "The situation is worrying, we want the Catalan government to create a committee to solve this problem," he asserted.
Borràs and Torra respond
The statements reached the speaker of parliament, Laura Borràs, who responded to Batlle via social media. "Avoiding one's responsibilities is the fastest way to discredit institutions," Borràs said on Twitter.
President Quim Torra also responded, strongly criticising the city council law and order representative: "Dear sir, to centrifuge your absolute incompetence, you look for other excuses. It is depressing to think that you were part of a government of Catalonia. I demonstrated and I will demonstrate as many times as necessary (on Saturday, for example) for the independence of Catalonia ".
Batlle also stated that this weekend marked "a turning point" in terms of the scale of the botellot parties which took place, despite the fact that other similar episodes have been experienced this summer. He acknowledged that seeing 40,000 people in Plaça Espanya "was a surprise" that "should worry all those who are responsible."
That is, it is a serious concern because the booze parties ended up in "extreme violence." Thus, the Barcelona city council's law and order representative demanded a general reflection on the phenomenon, which he fears may become chronic.
Below, images of the huge 'botellot' in the Plaça Espanya area on Friday night, and some of the clashes with police in the aftermath.