Friday, August 19, 2005

There have been three consecutive nights of rioting here in the Gracia district of Barcelona with the excuse of the neighborhood Fiesta Mayor, which kicked off Sunday night and runs for a week. The Fiesta Mayor is a century-old tradition in which the residents of different streets compete to see who can decorate theirs most attractively. The themes and their realization are typical high-school dance stuff most of the time, though real money goes into putting the Fiesta together; the budget is several hundred thousand euros, much of which comes from taxes. Traditionally, the various streets hire dance bands, hold public dinners, and have puppet shows and the like. Oh, by the way, they sell beer. Lots of beer. On the streets, with the money going to each street's decorating committee. The local bars also make plenty of money.

What's happened over the last few years is that crowds of locals from all over the metropolitan area show up and get completely blitzkreiged, and the crowds get bigger and more violent every year. Our friends the squatters have taken over and run wild every night. Here are some quotes from La Vanguardia:

Some 300 youths faced off with the police early Wednesday morning...garbage skips were burned, motorcycles and urban furniture destroyed, several people were injured, including two regional and one local police officers, and two minors were arrested.

At around three in the morning the squatters and their friends got together in Plaza Rius and Taulet, about 1000 of them, and started bongoing and raising hell. At four the cops told them to go home, since the residents were furious and they had to clean the streets and pìck up the garbage anyway. The squatters started throwing bottles and other crap at the cops, and they set up two barricades on the Travesera de Gracia. The firemen showed up to put out the fires and were attacked as well.

Then, early Thursday morning, there was more squatter violence. Between three and six AM

the confrontations of the previous morning were repeated, with greater virulence, between youths and police officers. Garbage skips were burned and wastebaskets, portable toilets, phone booths, and other street furniture was destroyed. Some street decorations were destroyed, such as the giant sardine on Calle Tordera. Eight members of the riot squad and eight more youths were injured. Damage was estimated at €25,000. There were no arrests.

The police did identify thirteen leaders, who will be charged. Interestingly, Tordera is the only one of the 22 decorated streets that does not sell alcohol.

Now here's the really fun part. Guess who La Vanguardia's reporter focused on?

"This is the most exciting moment of my vacation," said Paul, an English tourist, while he ran through the streets of Gracia during the conflicts between the police and youths..."My night as an urban guerrilla" is the title of a page of the diary that Alessandro, an Italian tourist, is keeping during his stay here...In Calle Progrés, a group of tourists swam naked in the swimming pool that formed part of the decoration.

That's right, blame the tourists instead of the local scumballs and urban trash!

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