BARCELONA experienced scenes of large-scale street crime, looting and injuries after crowds of up to 40,000 revellers gathered nightly during the city’s La Mercè celebrations over the weekend.
Despite a police operation which deployed more than 1000 officers, 30% more than a usual summer weekend, the celebrations were marred after groups of criminals and anarchists took advantage of the large crowds at the event.
Many robberies and assaults were reported and police made dozens of arrests each night. Many dozens more were injured, often with stab wounds. On the final night 30 arrests were made and 40 injuries reported. Many of the arrests were made by plainclothes Mossos agents, supported by drones that were monitoring the crowds.
The Catalan capital saw scenes of chaos as masked gangs of criminals and anarchists broke shop windows and destroyed property. Dozens of businesses were vandalised and looted.
Residents have criticized the police operation and response to the incidents. According to witnesses, groups of masked criminals dressed in black roamed the streets intimidating and robbing people. Others, thought to be anarchist groups, attacked police in the Catalan capital.
The Gremi de Restauració de Barcelona organisation represents the interests of the hospitality sector in the city and has criticized city authorities for failing to tackle so-called “Macro-botellanos”, the name given to groups of street revellers who drink and congregate in public spaces.
In Barcelona the gatherings have witnessed many high profile incidents of violence, sexual assault, injuries and general street crime.
Gremi de Restauració Director Roger Pallarols has challenged authorities to explain why they have tolerated gatherings of more than 40,000 people at a time of increased anxiety over the issue of crime in the city, and during a summer of nightlife sector restrictions which saw crime rates soar.
Partido Popular councilman Josep Bou Vila took to Twitter to criticize the government of Ada Colau, and her management of the city. Her political opponents have long criticized her over Barcelona’s declining public safety which remains a pressing issue among residents.
Over the weekend the Mayor Ada Colau visited the scene of the riots, calling it “unacceptable”, she thanked police for their efforts. Colau’s socialist ally in government, Jaume Collboni demanded “more resources from the Ministry of the Interior”.