I’ve done my best to avoid getting too close to the protests going on here in Barcelona, as recommended by our embassy, but today I found myself up close.
I ran into a pretty large protest march I didn’t know was happening and did my best to get away from it, even going down into the Metro station and exiting out the other side to get across a big plaza.
I thought I’d gotten clear of them and a few minutes later settled down into a window seat at a restaurant on a different street for lunch. As I sat there, after a while it dawned on me that something was odd: there was now no traffic on the usually very busy, six-lane wide Via Laietana.
Then a police escort vehicle came slowly by, followed by a truck containing protest leaders exhorting the crowd through speakers, and press photographers. This was followed by hordes and hordes of protesters.
It was all quite orderly, if loud (what with whistles, drums, air horns, chanting, amplified voices, etc.), and very peaceful. The only uniformed police presence I saw was in the escort car and, earlier, directing traffic at major intersections.
It was definitely a Sunday family outing for some. People were in the street with their dogs, their young children, and their strollers. It was a real cross-section of humanity, all united in their quest for a dialog with the national government about Catalonian independence. I have no idea how many protesters there were but the they streamed by for about 30-minutes before the street cleared again and was eventually re-opened.
I suppose if things had gone bad, sitting as I was up against a window, I could have gotten a brick and some glass in the face, but they didn’t. It was uplifting to be so close and to see these determined people in the street. Their dedication was moving and I’m glad they had a nice day for it.
Speaking of protests, I’m hoping to dodge a big one in France in a few weeks. I’m saying goodbye to Barcelona on Thanksgiving Day and heading for Paris, London, and ultimately the U.S. a week later. However, many unions in France have called for “unlimited strikes” (read as: “country paralyzed”) starting the evening of December 4th. I’ll be leaving Paris on the Eurostar train to London early on December 2nd, so I should not be affected. But until then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the French strike dates don’t change and that no other, sooner strikes are announced.