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Tense looms as Barcelona braces for fresh waves of violence
Published : 26 Oct 2019, 22:57
Updated : 27 Oct 2019, 23:14
Mass deployment of police, hovering helicopters, sirens, barricades, iron curtains in closed shops...tense atmosphere looms in Barcelona as the city is bracing for continued demonstrations on this weekend.
The mediterranean tourist hotspot is still taking shock of days of street violence following the jailing of nine Catalan political and social leaders on Oct. 14 for their role in the independence referendum held in the region in 2017, which was declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.
The demonstrations were feared to be more aggressive as some 400 coaches were called to get more people from different parts of Catalonia.
The national police as well as the local Catalan police are dispatched early Saturday morning to set preemptive measures to curb potential violence in the protests.
In Plaza Urquinaona in the city center, also near the national police headquarters in Barcelona, heavy presence of police was seen, and temporary checkpoints were set up checking identities of passers-by.
The square, called "the eye of the violent storm" by locals, witnessed some of the fiercest clashes between radical pro-independence activists with policemen a week ago, leaving some 200 injured, according to local media reports.
Traces and marks of the violence remain clear, and the shop owners remain worried.
The glasses of the shops are broken, vicious slogans against the police are on the wall, grounds are burnt black and pavement were hammered to pieces.
Jose Perez, aged 25, a waiter at Boscata cafe at the corner of the square, showed some of the video footages of the riots, many masked young men were throwing stones at the police, at the shop windows and setting garbage bins on fire.
"These violent acts are so ridiculous. I saw many of the rioters are youths, and they are making violence just for violence. Their acts show no respect for other's life," Perez said.
Perez said he has to close the shop early at 7 p.m. in these days fearing of further damage by the rioters.
Across the street, on the show window of the lamp shop, La Casa De Las Lamparas, were graffitis and slogans "local police are bastards".
The shop owner, Belca Gallicia, told Xinhua that she was surprised that the mobs came out of the neighborhood.
"I don't know why they fight people. I can't understand why they did that. I think they must stop doing this."
The Spanish government said that over 200 people were arrested during the protests, of whom 134 adults and 15 minors have appeared before a judge and 31 were sent to jail.
The fire brigades in Barcelona carried out 564 services during the riots last week, Agencia EFE reported.
The tense situation took a heavy toll on local tourism and cultural activities.
Stores and restaurants in the Catalan capital experienced a drop in sales of between 30 percent and 50 percent, according to Barcelona Oberta, a trade and tourism association.
A souvenir shop owner named Timojin, aged 26, said he saw less senior travelers from the Nordic countries and Japan at this time of year.
"Violence harmed the country's image, and the bad image can go viral. Tourists will feel unsecured and they're not coming, and we're losing money," Timojin said.
"The government has to tell that people have right to express their opinions, but they don't have the right to damage the city," Timojin
He added he will also close his shop when night falls.