Why did the police take 36 hours to stop the New Year's rave in Llinars?

2 arrested, 5 investigated and 215 identified after party that prompts questions over Catalan law enforcement

Some Mossos d'Esquadra officers stopping the New Year's rave in Llinars del Vallès on January 2, 2021 (by Carola López)
Some Mossos d'Esquadra officers stopping the New Year's rave in Llinars del Vallès on January 2, 2021 (by Carola López) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

January 3, 2021 12:55 PM

Why did the Catalan police take 36 hours to begin an operation to stop the New Year's rave in Llinars del Vallès, especially given Covid-19?

This was one of the most frequently asked questions throughout the first weekend of 2021 in Catalonia, especially on social media.

Party not spotted in advance

With the controversy at its peak on Saturday evening, shortly after the end of the eviction of roughly 300 people in an abandoned warehouse, the leader of the Mossos police, Josep Lluís Trapero, admitted that they would have been able to stop the party earlier if they had identified more in advance that it was taking place.

Not enough officers

Trapero also said that they needed more officers to perform the operation – in the end, around 200 took part –.

Indeed, on New Year's Eve, 3,000 officers (out of the approximately 17,000 Mossos) were deployed in the annual special operation across the country. On top of them, that night several more police were making sure that the county-level lockdowns in Ripollès and Cerdanya were respected.

The head of the Mossos also explained that once they were aware of the rave, they also needed to gather more information on the site and on the people who were taking place.

Lack of sunlight

According to him, the operation to evict the partygoers began in the early hours of New Year, but in the end the law enforcement leadership decided that more time was needed to plan.

For Trapero, it was a "serious problem, but not urgent" and the eviction had to be done properly.

He said that "probably" they could have stopped the event in the evening of January 1, but they needed "sunlight" to perform the operation.

Pere Ferrer, another Mossos senior official, said on Saturday afternoon that "a hasty operation in the early hours of January 1 would not have had guarantees for anyone: neither the participants nor the officers."

Pandemic impact and government row

Speaking in the same press conference, interior minister Miquel Sàmper said that the event in Llinars del Vallès was not only a matter of public order, but also public health.

Therefore both of them justified asking the health department on January 1 how to proceed before beginning the eviction, which prompted a row within the government.

The health ministry replied that they had never been requested a protocol before stopping an illegal party and urged their government partners to "not use the health department as an excuse to not evict them."

Authorities decided to not perform Covid-19 tests on participants, but those who had to drive out of the place were tested for alcohol and drugs – with one positive for narcotics.

Up to 300 people partying with fines of up to €600,000

Between 200 and 300 people joined an illegal rave party in Llinars del Vallès (40km north-east of Barcelona) to bid farewell to 2020.

Not only did they break the rules as a maximum of 10 people in gatherings were allowed, but two nights later, the party was still on on Saturday morning – and partygoers wanted to stay until Monday.

To the bewilderment of the nightlife sector – banned for nine months –, and also to the surprise of part of the public expressed on social media, the Mossos d'Esquadra police only began stopping the party on January 2 at midday, 36 hours into 2021.

The law enforcement officers identified 215 people, who will be fined up to €3,000 each for skipping the health regulations, while the two organizers were arrested and a judge will decide whether they are released in the next few hours. They could face fines of up to €600,000 each. Five more people are being investigated for disobedience.

Some of the rave attendees are foreigners, with a number of French, Belgian, Dutch and Italian young people, but the Catalan News Agency (ACN) has also observed the presence of Catalan people.

Sàmper admitted that it would be "complicated" to get the fines paid for those who live abroad.