Spain unites for 500,000-strong Barcelona march, in show of defiance against terror

Differences put aside as half-a-million people join major rally against violence following deadly attacks last week.

About 500,000 people have marched in Barcelona in a huge public rejection of violence following a recent deadly attack in the Spanish city, chanting: “I’m not afraid.”

The protest, the largest in the city since some two million protested against the Iraq war in 2003, was called by the city council and the Catalan government. Ada Colau, the Barcelona mayor, called on people to “fill the streets to overflowing” and to show unity in the face of threats of further attacks on Spain from so-called Islamic State.

Spain’s central, regional and local authorities walked– to send an image of unity on Saturday, behind emergency workers, taxi drivers, police and ordinary citizens who helped immediately after the attack on August 17 in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas boulevard.

Determined to present a united front in the midst of the simmering secessionist row and with Catalonia’s controversial independence referendum barely a month away, the Spanish political establishment turned out in force behind them.

In a first for a Spanish monarch, King Felipe VI joined the public demonstration, along with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other Spanish and Catalan regional officials.

There were messages of support from mayors around the world, including London’s Sadiq Khan, Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and New York mayor Bill de Blasio, among others.

The lead marchers carried a street-wide banner with black capital letters reading “No Tinc Por,” which means “I’m not afraid” in the local Catalan language.

Speaking at the end of the march, Barcelone Mayor Colau said: “We talk a lot about diversity, but it’s not enough to talk about it, we have to make it a reality. An attack like this marks a city, the country and its people. But it’s one thing if it leaves a wound, another if what’s left is a scar.”

In a brief ceremony, the spokeswoman of the Islamic organization Ibn Battuta, Míriam Hatibi, told the crowd: “We are not afraid because we know that love will triumph over hate.”

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed the vehicle attacks in Barcelona and hours later in the coastal town of Cambrils that left 15 dead and more than 120 wounded. Six of them remain in critical condition.

The investigation into the ISIL (also known as ISIS) cell behind the attacks has shown the group planned even more deadly carnage, but accidentally blew up a house in Alcanar where bombs were being built and gas tanks stored.

Eight suspects are dead, two are jailed on preliminary charges, and two more were freed by a judge but will remain under investigation.

In the northeastern town of Ripoll, home for many of the attackers, members of the local Muslim community and other residents gathered on Saturday in a central square to condemn the deadly attacks.

Located at the foothills of the Pyrenees, the town is where most suspects came under the influence of a radical imam, investigators say.

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