Have you been thinking about moving to the city but are concerned about what you are seeing in the media about Barcelona right now?
We are sure you haven’t failed to spot the recent unrest in the city’s streets on your news stands. However, we hope that we can reassure you that, despite these media-picked images and the week of separatist unrest, Barcelona is still a wonderful place to live.
A quick insight into our Catalunya politics
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and, due to Catalonia’s political autonomy within Spain, has a particularly important status within the region. Catalonia is ruled by the Generalitat, which has its seat in Barcelona. The first version of this autonomous government dates back to medieval times when the Diputació General de Catalunya was in power. Due to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, Barcelona’s city government enjoys a large amount of decision-making authority.
There were celebrations and optimism among Catalan separatists after a party committed to independence came out on top in the region in national elections for the first time since the end of Franco and the return of democracy to Spain.
So what has the recent civil unrest been about?
This year, things appeared to be moving forward from the bitter acrimony which had followed the independence referendum in the autumn of 2017, when Madrid sent the Guardia Civil to put down protests with punitive violence and the arrest of separatist leaders.
However two weeks ago, the Supreme Court in Madrid handed lengthy prison sentences to nine of the detained Catalonian leaders for up to 13 years each, with Oriel Junqueras of the ERC, the former Catalan vice-president and the highest ranking official in the trial, among those receiving the maximum term.
The trial in Madrid – which had lasted four months with 422 witnesses appearing – cleared the defendants of acts of violent rebellion, carrying sentences of up to 25 years, and found them guilty of the lesser charges of sedition and misuse of public funds.
Sanchez, the acting prime minister, took a robust line, stressing his government backed the court’s decision and declaring that “nobody is above the law. In a democracy like Spain nobody is subject to trial for his or her ideas or politics but rather for criminal conduct as provided by the law.” The independence movement, he charged, had ignored the constitution and fractured Catalan society.
Demonstrations began in Barcelona soon after the news broke from the court.
Clashes between violent and organised protesters saw cars and bins set alight in the Catalan capital. However by the end of the week, the city worked hard to pick itself up. This is how it continues and we hope that this small minority of people will focus on other ways to convey their anger.
While the overwhelming majority of protesters (more than 500,000), have been peaceful, around 400 provocateurs deliberately targeted police. Many of these were under the age of 22 and were purposefully looking to cause trouble. In fact, it has since been reported that over half of the people arrested were not even Spanish in nationality.
Spain, specifically Catalunya, is known for its peaceful protests. The civil unrest was not seen in Barcelona’s surrounding towns of Gavà, Castelldefels and Sitges, which remained calm and ‘business-as-usual’ other than people being affected by central demonstrations aimed at disrupting the transport infrastructure.
We hope that this small pocket of individuals and media exposure of a couple of days of violence in the centre will not stop you from seeing what a wonderful city Barcelona is to live.