This article titled “‘I am not afraid’: Barcelona vigil sends message of defiance” was written by Stephen Burgen in Barcelona and Giles Tremlett in Cambrils, for The Guardian on Friday 18th August 2017 21.53 UTC
As a minute’s silence came to an end, the shouts of “No tinc por!” (I am not afraid) rang out across Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, repeated rhythmically by the thousands of people who had gathered at noon in the hot sun to pay respects to the dead and injured after Thursday’s terrorist attack.
The crowds descended down Las Ramblas, the wide boulevard that runs south from Plaça de Catalunya, in an act of reclamation. The day before, 13 people had died when a terrorist ploughed a van into pedestrians in the bustling tourist hotspot.
They passed a makeshift shrine to the dead and injured at the Canaletes fountain near the northern end of Las Ramblas, where Barcelona football fans traditionally gather to celebrate victories.
Further along, at a second memorial on the Joan Miró mosaic embedded in the pavement, bystanders held signs declaring they are not afraid. A guitar player strummed out Imagine by John Lennon while several people sang along.
Addressing the vigil, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, had talked of “the absurd and irrational pain that terrorism causes”.
“We have received blows like this in recent years, but we also know that terrorists can be beaten,” Rajoy said, declaring three days of mourning.
The mood across the city was one of shock, anger and defiance. In public and in private, people insisted life must go on as normal.
“Catalonia has been and is a place of peace and welcome,” said Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in statement. Puigdemont had attended the vigil, alongside King Felipe VI, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau and other leading political figures.
Colau tweeted: “Terrorism will not stop us being who we are, a city that is open to the world.”
Nevertheless, people were understandably nervous. “Now every time I walk around the centre I’ll be looking over my shoulder,” said Alex Bedford Vilarrubias, 18, who lives near Las Ramblas. “All the memories of those places where I grew up and had fun are going to be tarnished by this.”
Teresa Feliu, 56, who attended the rally, said: “I’m worried and furious but anxious that we show unity. Muslims are good people and I hope that people can distinguish between them and the people who did this. That’s what worries me most.”
Feliu’s son Biel, 16, said he was shocked to hear that one of the suspects was only 18. “If it’s true, it’s shocking that they could be capable of such a thing,” he said. “It’s another demonstration of how Islamic State operates.”
Attempts to politicise the vigil were stamped down. A woman waving a tiny Spanish flag was rounded on by the crowd, who called on her to remove it.
Gary Fisher, 57, a holidaymaker from Notting Hill, London, who attended the minute’s silence, said there was a noticeable absence of national flags.
“After the minute’s silence everyone started clapping. People were chanting ‘we shall not fear’. A woman was waving a Spanish flag, but she was shouted at to put it away. She was upset and took the flag down. Some people want to show the flag to come together as a nation. But people in the crowd were saying this was not a time for nationalism.
“After that, everyone filed out and walked slowly down Las Ramblas,” he said. “It was very moving. Everyone is very calm and dignified today. It’s back to normal.”
Local artist Selva Aparicio responded to the tragedy by making an artwork tracing the route of the van along Las Ramblas on sheets of paper. She started out on her own on Friday evening but was soon joined by up to 50 volunteers who rubbed 1,744 sheets of paper with pencils to trace the texture of the street.
In the small coastal town Cambrils, 75 miles to the south, mayoress Cami Mendoza and several hundred people observed a five-minute silence.
By daybreak only television trucks and a smattering of armed police remained as a sign of what had happened in the early hours of Friday morning, when five suspected terrorists had been shot dead after they drove into pedestrians in the small coastal town.
One person was killed in the attack, which left five other bystanders and a police officer injured. Many wondered why the terrorists had chosen Cambrils.
“If they had come earlier then this area of town would have been full of people,” said shopkeeper Lola Sanchez. “But if they wanted lots of people at that time of night, then they should have gone to Salou.”
The country’s two most famous football clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid, held their own minute of silence for the victims of both attacks before their training sessions.
Real Madrid players huddled before beginning their activities at the team’s training centre in the city, while Barcelona’s squad lined up in silence before its practice session.
In a tribute to the attack’s victims, Barca players will wear black armbands and shirts bearing the city’s name on the back when they play Real Betis on Sunday.
The club has been granted special permission from the Spanish soccer federation for the arrangement, and said the message “#TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) will be embroidered on the front of the shirts.
Back on Las Ramblas, Jesus Borrull, a lifelong Barcelona resident, gently pushed through the crowd to kneel and pray in front of the Canaletes fountain. Legend has it that visitors who drink from the fountain will fall in love with Barcelona and return to the city.
“The only thing we can do is go forward with peace and goodness,” he said. “Even though it’s difficult, we have to do it.”
Additional reporting by Carmen Fishwick
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