by Michael J. Shapiro | November 09, 2017
Pro-independence protestors blocked streets and railway stations yesterday in Barcelona and surrounding areas in the Catalonia region of Spain, snarling traffic in parts of the area with anywhere from 50 to 70 roadblocks, according to sources. Highways to the border with France were blocked, and protestors prevented high-speed trains to Madrid from departing. Some union organizers had called for a general strike, which caused major headaches for regional transportation even though some parts of the city experienced little disruption.
 
The strike came less than 12 hours after Jordi William Carnes, CEO of the city's tourism agency, Turisme de Barcelona, released a statement that Barcelona remains a peaceful, safe and civic destination. "Barcelona services work normally, and the citizens are behaving as usual," he said. "All the services of the city, offices, infrastructures, as well as the airport and the transport network, operate in total and absolute normality, with no incidents." 
 
Carnes went on to say that many of the images portrayed in the media do not correspond to everyday life in the city - a sentiment that sources in Barcelona confirmed, with the exception of yesterday's demonstration.
 

"We consider that [Carnes'] statement remains appropriate and fits the reality we live in Barcelona," said Christoph Tessmar, director of the Barcelona Turisme Convention Bureau. "Yesterday's strike was called by a minority union and not supported by the major unions. The follow-up of the strike indicates that only 4 percent of Catalan workers participated. It all happened peacefully, with only small isolated incidents that can take place in any strike or protest. The inconveniences caused by the strike were few and hardly noticeable."

 

Indeed, a spokesperson for the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, which drew more than 6,000 IT executives to Barcelona's International Convention Center Nov. 5-9, said the event experienced no disruption as a result of the protests.

Still, according to some sources, yesterday's events contributed to growing concern among residents about the political situation, and that such demonstrations as yesterday's could negatively affect public perception and the Catalonian economy. 
 
"It's a big mess," said Barcelona restaurant owner Julian Bagen, "and I don't know how it's going to be resolved. There's a lot of uncertainty. There are two sides, but a lot of confusion about ideas."
 
The Catalonian leaders behind last month's independence referendum have been arrested by Spanish authorities, and the federal government has temporarily imposed rule over the region. New regional elections are scheduled for Dec. 21. Different political factions see different routes toward Catalonian independence, and there is growing resentment in Catalonia, added Bagen, that their previous government was arrested while those members of Spain's ruling party who have been accused of corruption have yet to be prosecuted. Opinions differ as to whether December's elections can be fairly held with some politicians jailed, and if the results will be accepted by both the Catalonian people and the Spanish federal government.
 
But in the present, the reality of everyday life, according to Tessmar and others, is that business continues mostly as usual. "For all intents and purposes, you could say life in Barcelona is back to normal today," said Tessmar, "but it was never really that disrupted."