With only three days to go before Catalonia’s regional elections, tempers are running high, as councillors in Barcelona showed on Thursday as they competed to unfurl separate flags – one a Spanish flag and one a Catalan estelada – from the balcony of the City Hall.
Alfred Bosch y Jordi Coronas of the left-wing, pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) hung an estelada from the balcony, which immediately provoked Alberto Fernández Díaz, from the convervative Popular Party of Catalonia (PPC) to try to hang the Spanish flag.
While people around Fernández Díaz, who is the brother of Spain’s interior minister Jorge Fernández Díaz, try to stop him from hanging the flag, the PP politician tussles with them, elbowing them away to hang the Spanish national flag.
The crowd immediately starts jeering and shouting pro-independence slogans as they watch the scuffle commence.
Crowds were gathered in front of the city hall for the opening ceremony of Barcelona’s annual La Mercè festival (Our Lady of Mercy) which is celebrated every September 24th.
“The crowd applauded our flag but when they saw the Spanish flag they started booing and hissing,” Alfred Bosch, who is standing to the right of Fernández Diaz in the video, told The Local.
“We hung our flag as a spontaneous gesture, it is often hung from balconies on the patron saint’s day, but not from the city hall,” he added. “Suddenly this fella from the PP came up behind me and tried to place the Spanish flag on the balcony over our heads.”
“I tried to calm things down and calm the crowd,” said Bosch, who can be seen gesturing to the crowd to stop shouting and booing.
Fernández Díaz refused to remove the Spanish flag unless the estelada was also removed.
“So we took both flags down,” Bosch confirmed to The Local.
While the act was not illegal, Bosch admitted that Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, who has refused to be drawn into the Catalan independence debate was “not very happy about it”.
She can be seen being pushed back from the front of the balcony as Fernández Díaz tries to hang the Spanish flag.
Nor were many Spaniards, who took to social media to criticize the childlike behaviour of the councillors, with many people writing of their “embarrassment” at the incident.
La estúpida guerra de banderas en el Ayuntamiento de Barcelona da vergüenza ajena… así nos va. pic.twitter.com/vzOKs8NMtF
— Vöstøk (@verakoster) September 24, 2015
“The stupid flag war at Barcelona City Hall is so embarrassing.”
Cuando el niño es quien representa la madurez y la responsabilidad. pic.twitter.com/myxtwf2Z8U
— Antonio Maestre (@AntonioMaestre) September 24, 2015
“When the child is the mature and responsible one…”
Catalans go to the polls on Sunday, September 27th to vote in their regional elections, which pro-independence parties have billed as a de facto vote on whether Catalonia should secede from Spain.
The latest polls show that pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí could clinch an overall majority in the Catalan parliament. If it does, Catalonia plans to declare independence “within 18 months” the regional president, Artur Mas, said this week.