'Quiet night' after weekend of mass drinking and disturbances leads to dozens of arrests and injuries
Barcelona security councilor says reopening nightlife sector would not have prevented unrest
Barcelona's streets were much calmer on Sunday compared to the previous two nights when tens of thousands of revelers gathered in the city for mass drinking street parties which led to dozens of arrests and injuries.
The night of Sunday to Monday was "quiet" although the Catalan capital's local police had prepared to face potential further mass gatherings, according to Barcelona's security councilor Albert Batlle.
Law enforcement wanted to prevent the chaos witnessed in Barcelona on Friday night, when around 40,000 people partied near Montjuïc's magic fountains, on Avinguda Maria Cristina, and on Saturday night when 30,000 people gathered to drink at the Bogatell beach in another so-called 'botellón.'
Friday: 20 arrests and 43 injured after disturbances around magic fountain
On Friday, Barcelona's Guàrdia Urbana and Catalonia's Mossos d'Esquadra arrested 20 people, while 43 people were treated for injuries.
Some revelers threw objects such as bottles at law enforcement officers, while some of the Fira de Barcelona congress hall windows were smashed, rubbish containers were burned, and a car was also scorched.
“This has gone from being a problem of incivility to a problem of vandalism and public order,” said Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, the morning after.
Saturday: mass beach party ends in arrests, injuries and violence
Similar events took place the following night as well but in the other end of the city. The Guàrdia Urbana said 13 people were arrested, while the Mossos raised this figure to around 30, while 39 people were injured, 13 of which due to knife attacks.
Thousands of people had gathered on the Bogatell beach and riots began late into the night after most people had already left the vicinity.
At around six in the morning, violent groups looted restaurants in the area, burned motorcycles on the ring road of Avinguda del Litoral beside the beach, and threw bottles at police officers.
Throughout the night, local Barcelona police and medical services had to assist a number of people who had been injured in fights and as robberies were taking place.
Could riots take place again in the coming weeks?
Deputy mayor Batlle described the "extremely violent" clashes seen at La Mercè festivities this weekend as a "turning point" for the city.
Speaking to Catalunya Ràdio on Monday morning, the councilman admitted that the size of the street parties in the Plaça Espanya area had caught authorities by surprise but argued that easing restrictions on the nightlife sector, which can currently only open outdoor seating areas until 3 am, would not have prevented the unrest.
Indeed, he said these kinds of events could "become chronic" not only in Barcelona but across Catalonia if authorities do not reflect on how to tackle them.
The local council called for more help from the Mossos d'Esquadra, and while Catalan president Pere Aragonès said the presence of his government's police force will be heightened as much as needed, the officers in charge of the operation in Barcelona this weekend were the local Guàrdia Urbana.
Who is to blame for these disturbances?
Authorities are yet to clarify whether a specific organized violent group is operating in the city, but on Monday, Batlle said that a number of those arrested were minors, and those involved in the violent events had nothing to do with the revelers but "made the most" of the crowds in order to carry out their actions. These people reside in different towns across the Barcelona metropolitan area and its surroundings.
On Sunday morning, the director of Mossos d'Esquadra, Pere Ferrer, said that rioters were small groups of 20 to 30 people that encourage others to follow. "They are criminals," he added.