We’re not afraid

Barcelona and Catalonia showed the world their most sympathetic, civic, humane face

Today our thoughts are with the victims of the terrorist attacks of August 17 last year. We remember the tragic events that shook Catalonia and focused the world’s attention on Barcelona, Cambrils, Alcanar, Ripoll and Subirats. This column is in remembrance of the dead, the wounded and their families, as well as all the innocent people who suffered the consequences of fanaticism and intolerance.

It is also a fitting day to remember the people of Catalonia, the many thousands who marched in the streets saying to the world “I am not afraid”. Our people chose not to be bent by violence and did not give in to threats, but reclaimed the streets spontaneously, one step at a time, turning them into a space for peaceful coexistence.

Where only hours earlier there had been death, silence and emptiness, the people reclaimed the streets to make them a free, peaceful space. Once again, Barcelona and Catalonia showed the world their most sympathetic, civic, humane face.

That day the whole world showed us their solidarity. This is also a good time to praise the professionalism and dedication of our public employees: the Catalan police and other law enforcement officers, the City’s police force, the ambulance service, civil protection, social services and all the volunteers who rushed to help wherever help was needed. Our government and our police knew (we knew) that something like that could happen and we had to be ready for it. Other cities such as Madrid, Paris, London, Brussels and New York had already suffered jihadist terror attacks.

Since 2015, Spain’s terror alert has been at 4 on a scale of 5. At the time, the Catalan police devoted 35 per cent of their efforts to investigate and combat terrorism. They were working on several programmes to detect and thwart this attack. Undoubtedly, this is one of this nation’s main challenges for the future in terms of our security. We will need to keep working to prevent and detect radicalisation and to build a society that promotes integration and is respectful towards the many different values that it is made up of. These goals will only be attained through working across the board and bringing together different areas of the administration.

We should be proud of the capacity for reaction exhibited by the Mossos d’Esquadra in coordination with local police and other law enforcement officers. The various operations that were conducted in the wake of the attacks allowed us to take out the terrorist cell within five days. That was no accident, but the result of many years of hard work, of firmly believing that a nation’s security is one of the pillars that guarantee its freedom. If you recall, back in the 1980s Catalonia saw the need to have its own security model, unlike other Spanish regions. Scores of police officers and public officials believed in that and made it possible. On August 17 it became apparent that Catalonia’s police force was as good as they come worldwide. It was the Catalan people who understood that the best. The bond forged between the general public and the police in support of the victims was unprecedented that month of August. The Mossos d’Esquadra and the City’s police force had never been paid a tribute of that magnitude.

The Catalan police did a great job, but we wish to denounce the lack of cooperation from Madrid and some areas of the Spanish administration. We cannot ignore the information provided by the case file, which details the close ties between the Ripoll imam who masterminded the attacks and Spain’s CNI, the intelligence service. Spain should address these questions and tell the truth for the sake of transparency and out of respect for the victims and the general public.

Finally, we wish to voice our support to the victims and their families once more. Only a few days after the attacks, we witnessed a scene that encapsulated the harmony and social peace that we all wish for. It was the image of the parents of one of the deceased children embracing the imam of Rubí. It was the image of reconciliation, dialogue and fraternity, the only way —we believe— to put an end to intolerance, sectarianism and conflict.

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