Hundreds of Thousands March in Barcelona to Show Unity After Islamist Attacks

August 27, 2017 Updated: August 27, 2017

BARCELONA—Hundreds of thousands marched in Barcelona in a show of unity on Saturday evening amid chants of ‘I am not afraid’ after two Islamist terrorist attacks in the Spanish region of Catalonia last week left 15 dead.

The march was led by shopkeepers and residents of the city’s well-known Las Ramblas boulevard, where a van ploughed into pedestrians on Aug. 17, killing 13 and injuring over a hundred. The crowd applauded representatives of the police, fire services and medical professions who also led the march.

Spain’s King Felipe, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the head of Catalonia’s regional government Carles Puigdemont, dressed in dark suits, walked in the throng as people cheered and bore red, yellow and white roses—the colours of Spain’s second-biggest city.

Spain's King Felipe (C), Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (L) and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont (R) take part in a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain on Aug. 26, 2017. (REUTERS/Juan Medina)
Spain’s King Felipe (C), Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (L) and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont (R) take part in a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain on Aug. 26, 2017. (Reuters/Juan Medina)

“We are here to say we’re not afraid, we are united and we want peace,” said 59-year-old pensioner Victoria Padilla as she marched. Slogans carried by marchers read “The best answer: peace” and “No to Islamophobia”.

Police estimated the march at half a million people.

Representatives of rescue workers, police, health workers and citizens hold banner reading "We are not afraid" during a march of unity after last week attacks, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Juan Medina)
Representatives of rescue workers, police, health workers and citizens hold banner reading “We are not afraid” during a march of unity after last week attacks, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Juan Medina)

Members of Spain’s Islamic community marched alongside the King and Prime Minister Rajoy, including women wearing hijabs. Speakers gave readings next to a floral display with the words ‘Barcelona’ and ‘I am not afraid’ in different languages including Arabic.

“We have to know how to speak to each other and understand others. Everyone has to learn how to be more human,” said demonstrator Juan Ripoll, 63.

People hold placards and flag as they take part in a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Albert Gea)
People hold placards and flag as they take part in a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Albert Gea)

In the run up to the protest, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau called for a massive turnout after what she called a “tough, painful week” which saw two deadly Islamist terrorist attacks in many days and an extensive manhunt for those responsible.

In addition to the 13 killed by the van, two others were killed during the driver’s getaway and in a separate car and knife attack in the Catalan coastal resort of Cambrils.

People gather at Plaza Catalunya as they take part in a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Juan Medina)
People gather at Plaza Catalunya as they take part in a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Juan Medina)

Of the 12 suspects linked to the attacks, six were shot dead by police and two died in an explosion before the van rampage. Two are in custody on charges of murder and membership of a terrorist organization, and two have been freed on certain conditions.

By Sonya Dowsett

A sign that reads "We are not afraid" is seen during a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Albert Gea)
A sign that reads “We are not afraid” is seen during a march of unity after the attacks last week, in Barcelona, Spain, August 26, 2017. (Reuters/Albert Gea)