Major Trapero, an unlikely hero
Catalan police handling of the attacks' communication, in four languages and always urging calm, praised by citizens and politicians
"There has just been a massive trampling on the Ramblas in Barcelona by a person with a van. There are injured." With this tweet, published in Catalan, Spanish and English, the Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, alerted people about the incident last Thursday that was later confirmed as the worst terrorist attack in Catalonia in 30 years, with 15 killed and more than 100 injured. The attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils were also the worst in Spain since the 2004 Madrid attacks, which killed 192 people.
What unfolded was not only a massive police operation that ended with 4 terrorists arrested and 8 killed, but also a very bold communicative one. The Catalan police force’s Twitter account, @Mossos, doubled its followers during the attacks, as it offered regular and timely information about the developments of the investigation, in several languages, while urging precaution and calm at all times.
Timely information online
"We treat this as a terrorist attack," agents warned on Twitter after the Rambla attack. "We're still working in Cambrils. Situation under control, 4 perpetrators shot and 1 injured. Keep safe, follow our tips," they said hours later, after agents neutralized those responsible for the second attack. "All official information about the attacks of #Barcelona and #Cambrils we will publish it hereby. Please don't spread false information," the community manager of @Mossos asked citizens.
One of the most sensitive issues that Catalan police had to handle was the death of 7-year-old British-Australian boy, Julian Cadman. For several days, social media and the press published that the little boy had disappeared, then that he had been found in hospital, but the truth was that he was actually one of the fatalities. "There are many who ask for specific information about the Australian child. Communicative priority over victims is to family members," police tweeted. The father of Julian was flying over from Australia. His son's death was only confirmed when he was properly informed.
"I would never allow myself to say that an immigrant is a threat”
Josep-Lluís Trapero · Catalan police chief
This way of handling the attacks by police has been praised by citizens and politicians alike. Many even applauded agents on the street for their service. But the most unlikely hero of all turned out to be Major Josep Lluís-Trapero, chief of the Catalan police force, whose response in a press conference became, surprisingly, trending topic around the world.
A police chief goes viral
The Catalan government decided to leave all communication about the attacks to this police expert, not a politician, who had held at least two press conferences each day to keep the press up to date. His voice, calm but serious, but especially his caution and tolerance, won him the respect of colleagues and citizens alike. "I would never allow myself to say that an immigrant is a threat,” he said when asked by a foreign journalist about how the police aim to find out if the immigrants coming to Catalonia are “a threat or possible terrorists.”
But he gave his now most famous answer on Monday. After the Mossos killed the last fugitive of the attacks, van driver Yannes Abouyaaquob, a journalist interrupted Trapero, who was answering a question in Catalan. The journalist demanded that he speak in Spanish. "When they ask me in Catalan, I answer in Catalan, when they ask me in Spanish, I answer in Spanish," the police chief replied, only to find the journalist leaving the room. "Bueno, pues molt bé, pues adiós," Trapero said using both Catalan and Spanish, in a phrase that could be translated into English as "Well, then, fine, then, good bye."
The phrase quickly went viral as an example to defuse those that attacked Catalan officials and citizens for using their language and not Spanish during the terrorist incidents. Ironically, @Mossos had been posting information in English, Spanish, Catalan and even French during the attacks.