Institutional declaration regarding the situation in the city following the prison sentences for pro-independence leadersThe Mayor, Ada Colau, has called for dialogue to find a political solution to the situation of the last few days in Barcelona and to put a stop to any type of violence. Colau also expressed concern over those injured and thanked municipal services for their work to keep the city functioning normally.
Barcelona is a city of peace, dialogue, rights and respect for plurality: in contrast, over the last few days we’ve experienced a lot of tension, some of the worst in recent years. Because of this I am making the following declaration:
Over the last few nights the city has experienced situation of real tension and violence, something Barcelona does not deserve:
We’ve seen large and peaceful demonstrations, which are always welcome in our city, but at the same time we’ve seen fires in our streets and violent attitudes that must be condemned. Yesterday we were proud to see crowds shouting: “We’re peaceful people”, calming the situation and avoiding violence. On behalf of the city I’d like to thank these brave people.
What worries me most about these days are the people who are injured, particularly the seven who are in a serious condition, including a national police officer in a very serious condition and a girl in critical condition. I’d like to send their families full support and I hope they recover very soon.
We also know that among the injured there are various people who have lost their sight in one eye, injuries in all probability caused by rubber bullets, an anti-riot material which had stopped being used in Catalonia, precisely to avoid these types of injuries. I demand an examination of the protocols employed with regard to the use of this material and for investigations to be made accordingly.
We’ve also seen attacks on journalists doing their work and even a perfectly accredited journalist detained, which is very serious. The right to information and the freedom of the press must be ensured, guaranteeing the safety of media professionals.
Yesterday we heard the Spanish Minister of the Interior affirming that the police have the monopoly on force, that action has been proportional and that the images and denouncements of cases of bad police practice are all false. I’m the first to have recognised all week the difficulty in policing and that no generalisations can be made.
The minister is right when he says in a democratic state the police have the exclusive use of force, and that is precisely why that force needs to be used properly and professionally, without being afraid to investigate possible cases of bad practice. I honestly think that a minister can’t just start by saying that all possible cases of bad practice are false and that all the images we’ve seen on social media denouncing abuses are false.
The most difficult moments bring the very best out in people. We all have a lot to contribute to get out of this situation. Firstly, political and institutional leaders, also the media, organisations and the general public.
As the Mayor, I urge us all to look after Barcelona, its diversity, its tradition of standing up for things, defending rights, freedoms and dialogue.
I’d particularly like to recognise all the municipal workers who are performing above and beyond their call of duty over the current days: the city police, cleaning services, the fire service, mobility, care services (Barcelona Social Emergency Centre – CUESB). These are professionals who have grasped the exceptionality of the situation and day after day, night after night, are working to look after our inhabitants and our city so that despite these very difficult moments, the city is up and running again within hours. A heartfelt thank you.
Over the last few days, local residents and all sorts of businesses and organisations have approached the City Council asking how they can help. Barcelona’s character enables it to be that collective spirit of solidarity and cooperation which appears at difficult moments. I’m proud to be the Mayor of a city then never abandons those principles and that way of doing things.
I’d also like to stress that we must listen to what young people are telling us. They shouldn’t be criminalised, we need to know how to separate violent attitudes from what is a very serious and deep discontentment, which originates from the frustration of a generation which doesn’t feel represented or listened to and which has a lot to contribute. This generation is the future, also our present, and they surely haven’t been listened to enough and are needed to improve our democracy.
But let’s be clear about it: from a city perspective alone we can’t find the solutions to the conflict between Catalonia and Spain and the way it has been handled politically. Solutions are clearly needed that go further than what we’re doing or what happens in Barcelona. We have plenty to contribute, we can and will collaborate, but the main responsibility is for those at the head of the institutions, who have to be at the heart of the negotiations and break the deadlock.
In this respect, as the Mayor, I call on the acting President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the President of Catalonia, Quim Torra, to talk. Responsibly. If the Catalan and Spanish government can communicate to coordinate police operations, why are they incapable of talking about the political problem at the heart of this? I think a lot of people are wondering that. I also urge them to speak in private, as every time they address each other through the media or on social networks they’re making dialogue less credible. We all know that for real dialogue to take place there has to be discrete and composed contact.
Barcelona is a city with a strong tradition of feminism and the culture of peace, traditions that have taught us that real dialogue firstly requires empathy and a will to listen: to understand the reasoning of the other and to abandon maximalism. That’s why I’m calling for dialogue, for the conditions for real effective dialogue to be generated and for it to lead to solutions. That will only be possible if everybody accepts the following:
Maximalist stances, red lines and impasses need to be abandoned. That’s difficult in the electoral context, but short-term electoral arithmetic needs to be cast aside and greater vision employed to grasp the complexity of the situation. There’s much more than an election at stake.
We need sincerity and plain talking, as we all know the political solution to the problem Catalonia is experiencing with its relationship with the state will not arrive swiftly, but that at the same time we need to work for a short-term way out which allows us to break the deadlock and move forward.
We need to take some initial steps straight away, to show that as institutions and political parties we are here to offer solutions and not to generate problems. We need to speak with composure and generosity about how to resolve the situation of having political and social leaders in prison, as we all know that without their freedom it will be difficult to find a way out of the conflict we’re going through. I insist that we don’t deny that, and that we don’t use maximalist rhetoric about how their freedom should arrive.
We need to isolate and minimise incendiary political discourse, which doesn’t represent most of the population and only generates more tension.
An open table is therefore needed for dialogue, at both a Catalan and a state level, generating a new climate, rebuilding bridges that don’t exist today, and based on a commitment to stable and ongoing communication, moving away from gesticulation and closer to solutions.
As the Mayor of a city which has sadly lived through some very difficult days, yet at the same time a city of hope as it has not lost its pride or its essence of dialogue at any point, open and able to get through difficult situations, I will do everything in my power to facilitate the dialogue I have described. From the perspective of empathy, the desire to listen, the willingness to contribute, moving away from constant rebukes, I call for political dialogue and the abandonment of physical, verbal and all types of violence. As a society, as a country, as a city, we need to get away from this. Let’s work to make that possible.