Today marks one year since the attacks in Barcelona, which caused a total of 24 deaths between attackers and those attacked. Out of respect for the victims and their families, remembering the citizens’ loving response would be the best act for an anniversary full of interests.
When a terrorist act takes place in the middle of the holidays in a city that manages to be one of the most desired for world tourism, the event reaches the top in the international news headlines, becoming a media event where politics of all kinds will try to position themselves to take advantage of the situation. It was then and it is now.
This August 17, the city commemorates the first anniversary of the terrorist act that shook it, but it seems that the dominant media and political sectors have overlooked that what happened that day, in addition to a terrorist act, was a direct assault on the deepest feelings of every human being. It was an assault that calls for nonviolence and no to resentment, to defend the right to intercultural and religious coexistence, to position oneself against the fear imposed by power.
On this August 17, some politicians will again use the attack to talk about their interests and powers, what better time to do so, while the victims’ families just want to move on and forget. Ripoll, the village where the young people who were the protagonists of the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks came from, has tried to live through this year of pain without yet understanding what prompted the young people to undertake such an atrocity. They want to know, to understand, but to forget. The fact is that the public has not been given any explanation as to how young people have so far been involved, without any suspicion, in such an act of violence. These misunderstood motives are always hidden from the citizen.
10 days after the terrorist act, Barcelona staged a massive demonstration in mourning under the slogan “No tenim por” (We are not afraid) attended by the main representatives of the Spanish government, the regional government, the City Council and the Monarchy. To their surprise, the event was characterised by a diversity of voices with each one of them expressing their political position, but above all, the voice that won was that of not criminalising Islam, but the war policies that when put at the service of the globalisation of fear lead to societies where military defense budgets exceed that of the defense of human rights.
It was a citizen’s call to clarify that it was not going to criticise a religion, culture or country, but rather the war policies that at the time included the figure of King Philip VI of Spain accused of selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
Because the population does have some information on this issue, and does not forget, since the story of a monarchy and a central government marked by corruption and the sale of arms and various interests with the anti-democratic regimes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates does not go unnoticed.
But in parallel to the political and monarchical criticisms, the citizens were able to weave a discourse where love overcame hate. To see oneself immersed in such a manifestation was recorded as something strange, because how was it possible that an act of terrorism could turn into a bath of love and bet on no resentment? There is no doubt that in times of high emergency, society gives unpredictable responses, which appeal to the depths of every human being, and what is encouraging is that these responses follow the sign of nonviolence.
In this exaltation of love, people embraced one another, gestures of acceptance and brotherhood between cultures were palpable and declarations of pacifism were expressed in each section by the Muslim community. Such mass events, with peaceful slogans demonstrated by clear acts of affection, are becoming more frequent in Catalan society. Because since 15M, the spark has been alive and much of society no longer wants to be a puppet of the fear that those in power are trying to instill.
Living that afternoon and walking among the five hundred people who attended the Passeig de Gràcia to the Plaza Catalunya, became almost a liberating ritual, it was difficult to foresee a priori that the citizen response was going to follow the path of reconciliation, its message being the true protagonist and rejecting the political, institutional and monarchic act.
Two months ago Barcelona organised a world meeting of “Cities without fear”, a meeting of municipalities under a common banner, and here, in the demonstration, the citizens had the opportunity to defend the slogan of that meeting: “we are not afraid”.
A year ago we were wondering what direction all these scenarios would take. During this time, Catalonia, immersed in a multitude of events, touched the tip of the iceberg. The voices of Islamic terrorism were muffled, but the string of political events linked to the dictates of the central government has marked the most surprising current events that can be expected of a supposedly democratic country. Without a doubt, the story leads us to discover that the resentment did resound on part of the ruling class. Two months later, in an act too close to the terrorist act not to create neural connections, which are still supposedly popular imaginations, the “illegal” acts of the popular consultation for self-determination of October 1st take place. Once again, nonviolence is based on citizen pacifism in the face of brutal violence by the security forces. This was followed by a whole series of acts, imprisonment, repression and disenfranchisement under article 155.
In this way, it is clear that there is a dislocation between pacifism and the desire for a nonviolent path on the part of the citizens in the face of the act and discourse of a part of politics.
Today, 17A, the politicians will be there, the monarchy will be there, but the citizens have already sent out their message: violence is overcome by nonviolence.
Translated from Spanish by Pressenza London