Spanish king receives mixed welcome in Barcelona

Both pro-independence and unionists took to the streets to mark the monarch’s arrival for the Mobile World Congress

Unionist supporters welcoming the Spanish king (by ACN)
Unionist supporters welcoming the Spanish king (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 25, 2018 07:27 PM

A familiar tension could be felt in the air on Sunday evening in Barcelona, marking the arrival of the Spanish king for the inauguration dinner of the Mobile World Congress. Felipe VI of Spain has come to the Catalan capital in order take part in the ceremonial events of this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), which has brought some of the biggest names in the mobile industry to the city.

His visit received a mixed response. Hundreds booed the king on his arrival. Earlier in the day hundreds of unionist supporters gathered to welcome the Spanish at Plaça Espanya, not far from where the technology event will be held. People waved Spanish flags, and shouts of “long live the king,” and “long live Spain” could be heard, as well as renditions of the Spanish national anthem. 

Moments of tension

In Plaça Catalunya, in the centre of Barcelona, dozens of people also gathered to welcome the king, in an act organized by the associations Platform for Tabarnia, and Barcelona is not Catalonia.

Not everybody was so pleased with the king’s visit, however. As the evening wore on hundreds of people took to the streets in central Barcelona to protest Felipe VI´s presence. The Catalan police have set up security measures outside the Palau de la Música as a helicopter circles in the sky.

The Catalan police have also cut off Via Laietana, one of the main roads that runs through the centre of the city, in an attempt to prevent protesters from advancing further. Unionist supporters were also nearby. There have been reports of tensions between both groups, with verbal clashes taking place when both groups met.

Pro-independence supporters shouted chants such as “out with the Bourbon (monarchy)”, “freedom for political prisoners,” and “the streets will always be ours.” Many brought pans, whistles and yellow-coloured items (a sign of solidarity with jailed Catalan leaders.) 

The Spanish monarch made no call for dialogue

After police violence on October 1, the Spanish monarch made no call for dialogue between the Catalan and the Spanish executive. He only said he was determined to ensure “harmony among Spaniards,” but didn’t mention the police violence and the approximately 900 people injured while trying to vote in the referendum. 

A frosty reception

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, and the Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, alongside other Catalan officials did not attend the official welcoming reception of the monarch. Ada Colau will, however, take part in the inaugurating dinner of the MWC.

Colau said that the reception for the king was “improper for a democracy of the 21st century,” in the context of his response to the Spanish police violence that took place in Catalonia on October 1 last year. Felipe VI “endorsed the repressive line instead of trying to appease the conflict and bring serenity,” Colau stated.

The leader of the main opposition in the parliament, Inés Arrimadas of Ciutadans, said that neither Colau nor Torrent “understood their role, as they have to represent everybody.”