Protests as Spanish king visits Barcelona
Felipe VI attends awards ceremony in first trip to Catalonia since sentencing of independence leaders
Protests are continuing on Monday against the visit of the Spanish king to Barcelona, who is visiting Catalonia for the first time since the release of the Catalan Trial verdict, which sentenced nine Catalan political and civic leaders to lengthy jail sentences.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Palau de Congressos convention center, where a Princess of Girona Foundation charity award ceremony took place. As the event was due to begin at 6 pm on Monday, numerous attendees were blocked from the entrance, and whistled by demonstrators as they tried to enter the venue.
In his speech, Felipe VI said "violence, intolerance, and the disparagement of others’ rights and freedoms" have no place in Catalonia, and praised Catalonia’s "contribution" to Spanish democracy.
One of the recipients of the Princess of Girona award, the Catalan mathematician Xavier Ros-Otón, wore a yellow ribbon in support of jailed and imprisoned independence leaders.
With a heavy police presence around the convention center, protesters blocked the avenue, one of the main routes into the city, while conducting a 'cassolada,' which involves banging pots and pans to make a lot of noise.
The Spanish monarchy has had poor reputation ratings among Catalans for years, with the king receiving a popularity score of just 1.8/10 in a recent poll.
Felipe VI became an even more controversial figure since a televised speech he gave on October 3, 2017, two days after the unilateral independence referendum.
The monarch was highly critical of the efforts of the pro-independence movement, while not mentioning the Spanish police violent crackdown against voters.
Widely criticized for not adopting a neutral stance in the conflict, the relationship between Catalan institutions and the monarchy has been rocky ever since, including top officials boycotting events that the king has attended in Catalonia.
An example is Felipe's visit to Barcelona to inaugurate the MWC mobile congress in February 2018. On his first visit after his controversial speech, government and parliament representatives and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau did not show up at the official reception.
The Premis Princesa de Girona (Girona Princess) awards are being held in Barcelona after the Girona city council denied the foundation that gives the prizes permission to use the Auditori venue where the ceremony was traditionally held.
Girona declared Felipe VI persona non grata in the city two years ago.