More than a half million Barcelonans, many carrying a single long-stemmed rose, filled the streets this afternoon for a peace rally in the aftermath of the senseless terrorist attack on Las Ramblas. There were people of all kinds–Catalans, tourists, recent immigrants, even a large number of Muslims.
The above short video will give you some flavor of the event.
Some of the signs:
“We are not afraid”
“No, to Islamophobia”
“Your wars, our dead”
“Felipe [the King], if you want peace, don’t traffic in weapons”
The idea is to have the Muslim world together with us (as just about all already are) in this battle against extremism:
The sign that is being dismantled said, “Spain against terrorism…Thanks, Your Majesty! [the King]” and was accompanied by a number of Spanish national flags being waved about on tall poles. The message sounds good, except that it was really pissing off the local Catalans and the police siphoned them away from the main march and had them disband as they were being bombarded by jeers, whistles, and shouts from the home crowd. Why? Well, these protesters were Madrid loyalists (Spanish flags) and, from the Catalan point-of-view, Madrid is essentially in bed with the terrorists and the root cause of the various terrorist attacks in Spain due to Madrid’s support of the Iraq wars and ongoing international arms sales. Then, of course, there is the Catalan tendency to dislike all that is Madrid and anything related to the Bourbon royal dynasty (see especially the Siege of Barcelona, 1713-1714):
Red Cross and police vehicles were soon decorated with roses in thanks for their service during and immediately after the attacks:
Much of the crowd continued on past the Plaça de Catalunya and visited the various memorials along Las Ramblas:
Muslim marchers rest in front of the Las Ramblas Burger King after the rally. The messages: “Love wins over hate”, “We want peace”, “Barcelona embraces peace”, “We want peace…end terrorism”:
Yes, it is yet another inhumane and disgraceful act of inhuman cowardice. This time, on one of the world’s most famous and beloved pedestrian walkways, the Las Ramblas (or La Rambla) corridor in Barcelona, Spain.
I absolutely don’t want to take away from the weight of the tragedy in Catalunya, but in the past few months, as a reminder, the world has seen…
This is just an abbreviated list. There were a number of other attacks throughout the world during this period.
The main point is this: ALL of these attacks are horrible tragedies, leaving behind a bloody trail of mangled human bodies–physical and psychological trauma, lost limbs, brain damage, excruciatingly painful burns, and destroyed lives. Perhaps because these events are somewhat rarer in Europe and the United States, it is the attacks in the west, which seem to garner the bulk of the sympathy and publicity in our U.S. and European news media.
And three other points:
Terrorism committed by “Islamic extremists”–who aren’t really “Islamic” at all, by the way–is not the only kind of terrorism there is. Consider the killing of nine black parishioners by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. I’d say that fits the definition of terrorism.
The vast, vast majority of Muslims aggressively condemn terrorist attacks committed in the name of their religion. Those in the west who criticize Islam, rather than separating out specific criminal deviants for vilification, risk alienating portions of the Islamic population. The world would be a better place with Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, all working together against the scourge of terrorism. (Actually, maybe the world would be better off without any of these religions–with the possible exception of Buddhism–but that is a topic for another day.)
Finally, it sure wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask ourselves just why individuals turn to terrorism. What are the economic and political factors driving such an extreme decision? Remove these factors and you remove the raison d’etre of terrorism. This requires clinical study, not simplistic emotional reactions.
Here is a selection of images from the Las Ramblas tragedy, with my occasional commentary, made early in the morning of August 25, eight days after the fact…
Before dawn, a city worker stops to contemplate one of the larger memorials. As the candles slowly burn out or are blown out by the breeze, only the candles along the edge are easily relit or replaced:
One of at least 20 smaller memorials, some specifically for individuals who died in the attack:
People from many countries have written their supportive messages on the tree trunks and the walkway tiles. One common phrase that you see everywhere is “No tenim por”, or “We are not afraid” in the Catalan language:
One of the victims, 40-year-old Silvina Pereyra Cabrera and originally from Argentina (or Colombia?), had lived in Barcelona for ten years and worked in the famous market, La Boqueria:
As I was photographing, I ran into this young guy who was relighting as many of the candles as he could. Speaking in Spanish, he made the point that terrorism occurs all over the world and victims in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria deserve just as much sympathy as victims in Europe. We are all human, we all have families, and we all suffer, he said. I neglected to ask, but I would suspect he is an immigrant from (perhaps) Morocco:
Others stopped to relight candles as well:
At the intersection with Carrer de l’Hospital (Hospital Street), near La Boqueria, you’ll find the largest memorial, a vast field of flowers, posters, notes, letters, stuffed animals, candles, and other personal items. I believe this is about where the criminal asshole’s vehicle finally came to a stop:
Three-year-old Xavi Martinez was the youngest victim of the attack:
Mickey and Minnie:
I found an American flag in the memorial closest to Plaça de Catalunya, perhaps intended for Jared Tucker, a 42-year-old American construction worker who was killed here. The police in the background are the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalunya’s provincial police. Passersby and crowds often spontaneously break into applause when the Mossos appear, such is the people’s appreciation for their rapid reaction to the attack:
“Muslims against terrorism”, in a field of compassion:
2016 Black & White Magazine, Spotlight Award Winner! (Issue: June, 2017, #121)
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