A year after a jihadist rampage in Catalonia killed 16 people, Spain paid homage to the victims Friday without managing to set aside bitter divisions over the region’s independence.
The Catalan town of Cambrils held a service on Saturday to remember the victims of terrorist attacks a year ago that started in Barcelona and ended in the coastal resort. Sixteen people died and over 120 were injured when Islamic State group militants drove vehicles into crowds in both places.
Families of the victims had called for a “truce” in the political row over Catalonia’s failed secessionist drive last October, which quickly overshadowed the bloody attacks that shook Spain.
But right above the spot on Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas boulevard where a van came to a stop after ploughing into and killing 14 pedestrians on August 17th, 2017, separatist activists unravelled a banner reading: “Free political prisoners. Without them this ceremony is a scam.” Under the banner — which refers to separatist leaders in jail over the failed secession attempt — relatives of the victims laid flowers on a pavement mosaic designed by Barcelona-born artist Joan Miro.
Further up the road on the central Plaza Catalunya, another large banner hung from a building reading in English: “The Spanish king is not welcome in the Catalan countries”, with an upside-down picture of the monarch, who took a hardline stance against the secession bid.
King Felipe VI, his wife Queen Letizia and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez joined families of the victims on the plaza for an emotional commemoration, to cries of “long live the king” and “long live Spain” by pro-unity onlookers sporting Spanish flags.