Thou­sands rally in Spain, shout­ing ‘I’m not afraid!’

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Fran­cisco Seco and Hernan Munoz

BARCELONA, SPAIN — Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peace marchers flooded the heart of Barcelona on Satur­day shout­ing “I’m not afraid” — a pub­lic re­jec­tion of vi­o­lence fol­low­ing ex­trem­ist at­tacks that killed 15 peo­ple, Spain’s dead­li­est in more than a decade.

Emer­gency work­ers, taxis driv­ers, po­lice and or­di­nary cit­i­zens who helped im­me­di­ately after the at­tack on Aug. 17 in the city’s famed Las Ram­blas boule­vard led the march. They car­ried a street’s-width ban­ner with black cap­i­tal letters read­ing “No Tinc Por,” which means “I’m not afraid” in the lo­cal Cata­lan lan­guage.

The phrase has grown from a spon­ta­neous civic an­swer to vi­o­lence into a slo­gan that Spain’s en­tire po­lit­i­cal class has unan­i­mously em­braced.

Spain’s cen­tral, re­gional and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties tried to send an im­age of unity Satur­day by walk­ing be­hind emer­gency work­ers, de­spite ear­lier crit­i­cism that na­tional and re­gional au­thor­i­ties had not shared in­for­ma­tion about the at­tack­ers well enough with each other.

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

Still, some cit­i­zens whis­tled their dis­plea­sure as au­thor­i­ties passed by, and held ban­ners crit­i­ciz­ing the king’s role in pro­mot­ing mil­i­tary ex­ports to Saudi Ara­bia.

Barcelona po­lice said some 500,000 peo­ple showed up to the march.

The Is­lamic State has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ve­hi­cle at­tacks in Barcelona and hours later in the coastal town of Cam­brils that left 15 dead and over 120 wounded. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Is­lamic ex­trem­ist cell be­hind the at­tacks has shown that the group planned even more deadly car­nage but ac­ci­den­tally blew up a house in Al­ca­nar where ex­plo­sives were be­ing built and gas tanks were be­ing stored.

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

Med­i­cal au­thor­i­ties said Satur­day that 22 peo­ple wounded in the at­tacks are still be­ing treated in hos­pi­tals. Six of them re­main in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

In the north­east­ern town of Ripoll, home of many of the at­tack­ers, mem­bers of the lo­cal Mus­lim com­mu­nity and other res­i­dents gath­ered Satur­day in a cen­tral square to con­demn the at­tacks. Lo­cated at the foothills of the Pyre­nees, the town is where most sus­pects came un­der the in­flu­ence of a rad­i­cal imam, in­ves­ti­ga­tors say.

The sis­ter of two of the al­leged ex­trem­ists gave an emo­tional speech thank­ing her neigh­bors for the sup­port shown to Mus­lim fam­i­lies in Ripoll.

“We share the same grief and the (need) for an un­der­stand­ing of what happened,” said Hafida Ouk­abir, whose younger brother Moussa was shot dead by po­lice in Cam­brils and whose el­der brother Driss is un­der cus­tody fac­ing ter­ror­ism charges. “We must all work to­gether to stop this from ever hap­pen­ing again.”

Her sob­bing speech was met with ap­plause.

EMILIO MORENATTI / AP

A rally Satur­day in Barcelona, Spain, con­demns at­tacks that killed 15 peo­ple there and in the town of Cam­brils last week. The Is­lamic State group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Aug. 17-18 at­tacks.

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