Barcelona mayor faces calls to quit over street safety concerns

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau is facing calls to quit over perceived insecurity in Spain's most-visited city as criticism after the assault of a US visitor sparked a very public insult by her tourism czar.

Barcelona mayor faces calls to quit over street safety concerns
Ada Colau is facing criticism over 'insecurity' fears in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Opposition parties have called a meeting on Wednesday to “condemn Colau's government in the face of its incompetence and inability to offer a response to the problems that are damaging Barcelona,” the main opposition party PDeCAT tweeted.

The crisis kicked off last Wednesday when a US tourist was assaulted by street vendors, sparking criticism from an opposition which denounces an increase in insecurity in the seaside city, a major tourist magnet.

Colau, who is usually very active on social networks, did not respond.   

But Albert Arias — in charge of the city's tourism strategy — did.   

“Right, so a guy fights with another guy and suddenly the city is Gomorrah, the country is sinking, the newspapers heat up and in the end, hey presto, it's Colau's fault as she doesn't do a thing,” he tweeted ironically on Sunday.   “Quite frankly you can go fuck yourselves.”

He later apologised and took his account off Twitter.

The US tourist who was assaulted was briefly hospitalised for head injuries.    That incident was caught on camera and widely published:

Opposition parties are also denouncing insecurity in districts like El Raval in the centre, home to so-called “narco-flats” where drugs are sold are rife.

On Saturday, men with knives and sticks were caught on camera fighting each other.

“She has failed as a mayor and as the one in charge of security. She must resign and allow for a change,” said Santiago Alonso, spokesman for the centre-right party Ciudadanos.

Any condemnation of Colau will merely be symbolic as none of the parties has raised the possibility of a no-confidence vote to oust her just nine months ahead of municipal and regional elections in Spain.

READ ALSO: Narcopisos: 'Drug flats' blight the heart of Spanish cities


Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.