It is known that access to the fenced area is controlled and that only a few people can pass, but from there the information is confusing. “You have to present the resident card,” someone says. Are cards issued to prove that one is a neighbor of the Gràcia neighborhood? “I have been living here for 30 years and I know there is something but I have no idea how it goes,” says another young man from there, who is looking among his friends for someone who has the now mythical pass that, in theory, allows entry to the traditional decorated streets of the festivities of this neighborhood of Barcelona. The one who guards the door clarifies it: there is a maximum capacity of 200 in that area “and there are already quite a few more.”
Consult the list of 19 Catalan municipalities in which the TSJC allows the curfew to be maintained
Rules and restrictions that are out of the ordinary often create confusion and confusion for those who are not used to them. That is exactly what happens with curfew. This Thursday the Justice has abruptly lifted the restrictions on night mobility in Barcelona and throughout Catalonia, with the exception of 19 municipalities. But not all the regulars at Gràcia’s parties seem to have found out how things are going.
“But then, does it end today? I had heard that it lasted seven days but I did not know how long it was, are you sure it is today?” Asks Dídac, 32, a “thank you lifelong “who dances in the street Joan Blanques with his girlfriend Diana, 30. The couple had not been able to go out any night before and this Thursday they did want to have a drink, although they did not plan to stay up late.” We will see, because we do not know if that of the curfew is official or not… “, assures Diana unconvinced.
As the night entered, the doubtful retired, cautious, and the streets of Gràcia became the kingdom of the convinced. “They told me on WhatsApp that the curfew was over, along with the rainbow emoticon, it was a moment of happiness,” says Anna (25), a neighbor of Sant Joan Despí who drinks beer with her friend Sara ( 24), from Sant Feliu de Llobregat. “I had already planned to go down, yesterday I came, but I left at 12 because I was riding a bicycle and there was actually nothing. But today, we’ll see … If I go, I go, but not because nobody tells me to I have to go”.
The opinions of the young people who are in the neighborhood at the edge of 1:00 in the morning are forceful against the curfew. Not so much about other restrictions, such as indoor capacity, the limitation of meetings or territorial confinements, but especially with the prohibition of wandering at night.
Critics with the curfew
Most agree to see the star measure against COVID-19 as a bad idea, although everyone has their reasons. “I think it is economical, as the bars close, that people do not consume elsewhere without spending,” says Anna. His friend Sara rebuts him. “For me it is a measure of control and to put fear. In the end you are afraid of being fined and that is why you leave,” says Sant Feliu, who acknowledges that he had not gone to Gràcia to celebrate the end of the restrictions but that now “maybe it gets messy.”
Plaça del Raspall is one of the epicenters of the festival. Banners with feminist, independence and socialist slogans fill the small confluence of streets. In the lilac point, a few volunteers stand guard, with the task of informing and assisting against possible cases of sexist aggression. In the center there are some bars that, shortly after one in the morning, are already closed. The lateros can’t keep up and the crowd practically takes the beers from his hands as they arrive with their loaded carts. Not even that group, which in Barcelona is reputed to be the most forward-thinking of all, had imagined that there would be so many people at that time.
The decision of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) to only endorse the curfew in 19 of the 148 municipalities requested by the Catalan health authorities has caught a changed foot not only to the Generalitat but practically everyone. The Government has reacted four hours after the news was known with a statement in which it regretted the decision and in which it stated that it would guarantee maximum compliance with the rest of the restrictions, which limit meetings to 10 people and maintain indoor capacity at 50 %.
“I believe that the curfew is a fascist measure, dating back a thousand years and that it should not exist. And that it does not give autonomy to people, it is neither coherent nor fair,” explains Isa, a stage design student from 25 years born in the neighborhood. She is living the holidays with Julia, 24, who has studied psychology. Both have left some previous nights for Gràcia, although “more or less” they have left before the stipulated time. “But maybe you go to someone’s house, you stay a while …”, Julia suggests. “We are from the same bubble,” he excuses himself.
The two young women are critical of night mobility restrictions, but stress that they are not insensitive to the pandemic. “Of course, you have to be aware of the situation we are in and take responsibility, but as a young person I consider myself sensible to know what to do and I think they have taken away all the ability to decide,” says Julia.
Another issue that especially concerns this couple of friends is what they have considered a criminalization of a specific sector of the population. “When the first curfew ended, many young people left, so what? Well, when the territorial confinement ended, all those who talked so much left for their second residences in La Cerdanya. Come on,” the theater student complains. “In the end we have been working more than ever, because many of us dedicate ourselves to things related to health, and from work to home,” emphasizes the psychologist.
“It’s all summer we don’t know where to go”
Just a 10-minute walk from Plaça del Raspall, in the Joanic area, 22-year-old Héctor drinks with three friends outside a closed concert venue where the Valencian Bearoid has performed. They have been listening to him even though they did not know him very much. He, who works in a printing company but is on vacation these days, has left a few days earlier. In fact, this Thursday they did not plan to meet. “But I have seen that there was no curfew and we came without thinking,” he says. “It has been shit, we have been all summer that we do not even know where to go, with the police behind … it is not to celebrate because the situation is what it is, but I already wanted to be in the quiet street,” he added.
Unlike others, Hector does not reject curfew in all circumstances. “I did not see it badly at first, although they pay just for sinners, it was a way for people to be at home when there were closed bars, many people in ERTE …”, he explains. “But now it seems unbalanced to me. Everything is open, there is tourism, everyone on vacation, terrace. And the only ones who are contagious are the young people?”
The order issued this Thursday by the Litigation Chamber of the TSJC is a blow to the Government because it rejects its maximum claim to apply a curfew in 148 municipalities and limits them to 19, but also because of the arguments with which it does so. The judges slide that the request of the Generalitat does not attend to sanitary criteria, but of a nature of public order, something that they consider to be an excess of fundamental rights.
But the streets of Gràcia, in the middle of the festivities and in the early hours of the morning, are not the best setting to talk about legal details. Some of the young people who start a conversation know, broadly speaking, that justice has overturned the curfew and that it was the Catalan Government who wanted to maintain it, without going into details. Although some know a lot more. This is the case of Carla, a 23-year-old leisure and free time instructor who fluently reviews some of the legal foundations of the car.
“I have read it in the newspaper,” he explains without giving it more importance. In his case, he applauds the TSJC for the decision taken this Thursday, but not without contradictions. “I will not be a firm defender of Spanish justice, for obvious reasons and because of the trajectory they have had … but beyond political issues, it does seem right that they have lifted the curfew measure,” he says. In his opinion, the TSJC is right to demand that the Generalitat provide specific data on the change in criteria. Despite the knowledge he displays on the subject, he acknowledges that the curfew was not expected to fall tonight.
Extra police reinforcement
A single man in all of Barcelona seemed to have foreseen that the curfew could be without effect this Thursday: Albert Batlle, deputy mayor of the City Council and responsible for security. He was the first politician to react at a press conference. “With an incidence of 125, it was difficult to maintain the curfew,” he assured, in line with what the magistrates had resolved a few hours earlier. His recipe was to expand the police devices from this Friday, which will have an extra reinforcement between 3 hours and 6 in the morning.
Batlle, at least on Friday night, has fallen a little short in the time bracket, because the spontaneous parties in Gràcia have started to explode shortly before 2 in the morning. In the squares of Diamant and la Virreina groups of young people danced around loudspeakers, some of small power but others real speakers with the magical quality of appearing out of nowhere at the right time. The platforms where a few hours ago there had been performances of the official program were reused as tablados to dance to the rhythm of instruments that suddenly someone took out.
In the Plaza de la Revolució one of those large loudspeakers projected at full volume the song ‘Todo de tí’ by Rauw Alejandro, one of the most sounded on radio this summer. The congregation, about fifty, danced with enthusiasm, took off their shirts, raised their arms, smiled for the photograph. In the background, a cleaning contingent descended next to an Urban Guard station equipped with vans, motorcycles and agents on foot.
On Wednesday the Guardia Urbana had already spent a hot night in Gràcia, when they had to evict more than 1,300 people. So it was shortly after 1:00 and because of curfew. This Friday, however, that clause had disappeared. But although the number of people was important and the young people had a visible desire to remain in the square, they did not present much resistance.
Shortly after 3 in the morning, a good part of Gràcia was displaced by large concentrations. Most had been pushed down by the police, although scattered groups that swarmed from here to there throughout the area. It was the first time since July 16 that they could spend the night on the street but, paradoxically, they all opted for one of the formulas that Julia had already suggested hours before: go “to someone’s house” because on the street you don’t there is almost nothing.