‘Not afraid’: Defiant Barcelona to march against terror
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‘Not afraid’: Defiant Barcelona to march against terror

Spanish city is in mourning after a van plowed into crowds last week, followed hours later by a car attack in the seaside town of Cambrils

BARCELONA (AFP) — Tens of thousands of Spaniards and foreigners are to stage a defiant march against terror through Barcelona on Saturday following last week’s deadly vehicle rampages.

The Mediterranean city is in mourning after a van plowed into crowds on Las Ramblas boulevard on August 17, followed hours later by a car attack in the seaside town of Cambrils.

Fifteen were killed in the carnage and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called on Spaniards to turn out in force to show their “love” and solidarity with Catalonia where the rampages took place.

King Felipe VI will also attend the march, becoming the first Spanish sovereign to take part in a demonstration since the monarchy was re-established in 1975 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

Europe has been shaken by a spate of deadly Islamist violence with an increasing number of low-tech attacks using vehicles or knives.

A police officer stands by the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on August 20, 2017, before a mass to commemorate victims of two devastating terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. (AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT)
A police officer stands by the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on August 20, 2017, before a mass to commemorate victims of two devastating terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. (AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT)

On Friday evening, a man was shot dead in central Brussels after stabbing a soldier while shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) and shortly afterwards another man with a large knife attacked police in London as they tried to arrest him outside Buckingham Palace.

‘Love’ for Barcelona

The Spanish premier said Friday the king would be attending the march to demonstrate “his love for the people of Barcelona, of Cambrils, of Catalonia.”

“There, with all of Catalan society and all of Spain… we will once again give a clear message of unity and condemnation of terrorism, and of love for the city of Barcelona,” he added.

The warm comments contrast with Rajoy’s earlier criticism of Catalan leaders, with whom he has been at loggerheads over their plans to hold an independence referendum on October 1.

But in the aftermath of the attacks which were claimed by the Islamic State group, he and Catalonia’s separatist president Carles Puigdemont made a show of unity and both will attend the march which begins at 6:00 p.m. (16:00 GMT).

Medical staff members and policemen standing in a cordoned-off area after a van plowed into the crowd on the Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona, Spain, on August 17, 2017. (Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical staff members and policemen standing in a cordoned-off area after a van plowed into the crowd on the Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona, Spain, on August 17, 2017. (Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)

Already on Friday evening, thousands of people marched against terror in Cambrils, shouting “no tinc por,” which means “not afraid” in Catalan — as defiantly shouted by locals last week after the attacks.

The slogan of the Barcelona demonstration will also be “no tinc por.”

Those who tended to the victims last week will be given pride of place at the top of the procession.

These include security forces, emergency workers, residents and shop owners in the Las Ramblas avenue and taxis who took people for free — people like Montse Rovira, the city hall’s head of social emergencies who helped those who were lost or who couldn’t find their loved ones.

Over the following days, Rovira and her colleagues provided families with psychological support when they were given terrible news, and also helped others like doctors and firefighters.

“There are a lot of people who are suffering,” she said, adding that even psychologists themselves had struggled.

For her, the march will help “recognize the work of people who have been on the front line.”

Ode to peace

Saray Gomez, an 18-year-old who works at a flower stall right next to where the van ended its murderous rampage, said it was important “to give a message of unity and peace.”

This combination of pictures created on August 22, 2017 shows (from L) Mohamed Houli Chemlal, Driss Oukabir, Salah El Karib, and Mohamed Aallaa, suspected of involvement in the terror cell that carried out twin attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, at a detention center in Tres Cantos, near Madrid, on August 22, 2017, before being transferred to the National Court. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
This combination of pictures created on August 22, 2017 shows (from L) Mohamed Houli Chemlal, Driss Oukabir, Salah El Karib, and Mohamed Aallaa, suspected of involvement in the terror cell that carried out twin attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, at a detention center in Tres Cantos, near Madrid, on August 22, 2017, before being transferred to the National Court. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

“And it’s important to distinguish between Islam and jihadists, because Muslims are the first to be affected,” she said.

Thousands of red, yellow and white flowers — the colors of Barcelona — will be distributed to protesters.

The march will end at Plaza de Catalunya near Las Ramblas where two cellists will play “Cant dels ocells” (Song of the Birds), a traditional Catalan melody which has become a symbol of peace.

In 1961, late composer Pau Casals had played it at the White House in a rejection of the Franco regime.

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