“Closed for assault and vandalism; closed for assault and fear; closed for assault and lack of security.” Those were the messages embodied in the drawn blinds of the bars and restaurants that, in the heart of the Old Town of Pamplona, seconded this Thursday an unprecedented and improvised call to protest the violent altercations that have been produced by large bottles and agglomerations of young people in the downtown area .
Juevintxo: The hotel industry closes en masse in the Old Town due to attacks and the streets empty
More than fifty owners responded en masse in the main arteries such as San Gregorio, Pozo Blanco, Comedias, Plaza del Castillo, Estafeta, Navarrería, Paseo Sarasate and San Nicolás streets. It was precisely in the latter that a hotelier from the Don Luís bar suffered an attack when he tried to enforce health regulations on a group of young people. And it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The mobilization called has been “an unprecedented milestone in recent years,” says Juan Carlos Oroz, spokesman for the Navarra Hospitality Small Business Association (ANAPEH) and partner of the Chez Belagua establishment on Estafeta street. He points out that never before, in 50 years, have they seen the violent acts that have been taking place especially in the last three weeks: “Not even in Sanfermines. For many years college students have been out on Thursdays, but nothing like this has ever been seen. Here in Pamplona, unfortunately we have known violent acts with the ‘kale borroka’ or other social and economic problems, but not in this area ”.
Another hotelier on Calle Navarrería, Julen Molinero, complains about “the lack of respect” that hospitality workers are experiencing. “It is a closure to support the entire sector and make it clear that this cannot happen. It is an injustice and we have to support each other because we have already been punished enough, ”he says.
The call had the desired effect: the main points of concentration of young people making a bottle were practically empty, to the point that the night became “much quieter than others”, according to the Municipal Police itself. Of course, the interventions of the agents focused on this occasion in private homes, parks and gardens.
The start of the break was scheduled at 6:30 p.m., but many waiters began to lift chairs and tables and to hang their aprons before that time. Practically all the establishments on Estafeta Street did not serve dinners before the astonished gaze of passers-by looking for a place to stop. “They are going to have to leave Casco Viejo if they want to have a drink today,” Oroz tells a couple who comment on the scene in surprise.
Three weeks ago the Municipal Police reinforced the device in the face of the escalation of violent incidents experienced since mid-August. “It is clear that despite everything we have not managed to avoid incidents and today it is difficult to stop them”, acknowledges Jesús Bariain, communication chief of the Pamplona Municipal Police. “What we cannot understand is why at a certain moment a group of people, in a festive atmosphere, becomes violent when the police intervene from 01:00 or 02:00 due to the inconvenience caused to the neighbors”, abounds a week after the altercations that left six young people detained and four local agents injured during an eviction on San Gregorio Street. Some facts that are pending trial.
In the last three weeks the streets of Casco Viejo have been patrolling at night with more intensity Municipal Police, Foral Police and National Police. In fact, the Intervention Unit of the latter body, headed by Chief Inspector Alfonso Medrano, has also had to be strengthened. Normally a car with an average of six to eight officers is prepared to intervene, but in recent weekends up to four vans have been patrolled ready to intervene if required by colleagues. “We have been intervening for months in different areas, since March, such as in the Txantrea neighborhood where a series of incidents took place that ended in the launching of objects and the burning of containers,” he explains. But he assures that in the last three weeks the incidents transferred to the downtown area have forced them to mobilize their efforts in the main streets of the Old Town. “In recent months there has been a considerable increase in the aggressiveness of people, I do not know if specifically among young people, but the profile of people that we register in the interventions is quite young,” he assures while acknowledging the “deterrent” effect of the greater police presence that, at least, guarantees less damage to urban furniture.
A group of young people sitting on a bench in the Plaza del Castillo at 11:15 p.m., right next to a patrol of the Foral Police, do not think the same. Irene Romero, a first-year student at the Public University of Navarra, complains: “It seems wrong to me that the first weeks in which we start university and go out to meet people, everything is closed. It’s a bit of a killjoy. ” His partner, Alain Taberna, recognizes the outrage caused by the latest violent acts, but clarifies: “Not all young people are like that and it does not mean that what happened last Thursday will always happen.” Another student, Ana Alonso, manifests herself along the same lines: “What happened seems bad to me, but it does not seem fair that four people point out all the young people.”
Both the communication manager of the Municipal Police and the ANAPEH spokesperson agree that the problem is complex and comes from behind. “A Molotov cocktail – points out Oroz – that results from the arrival of university students, the consumption of alcohol or the closure of nightlife establishments due to the pandemic.” However, assuming the emotional discomfort generated by the pandemic is one of the causes of this complex phenomenon, he stresses, “it does not justify these actions at all.” For all this he insists on asking for solutions, such as police reinforcement, but above all an extension in the closing hours of the hotel business and the opening of nightlife establishments. Something that, he is convinced, could avoid the crowds in the Old Town by moving the parties to the discos located in other areas of Pamplona.
“It is a phenomenon and multicausal”
The scenes of violence experienced in the Old Quarter of Pamplona in recent weeks have also surpassed the different political corporations, which have not found a way to solve a problem, which according to the president of Navarra, María Chivite, is already being analyzed in depth because it is “multi-causal”. This same week the Regional Executive met with the Pamplona City Council, the different police forces and representatives of the hospitality sector to try to address the escalation of violence during the early hours of Thursdays, in the well-known ‘Thursdays’ held in the Navarran capital . “There is no single solution because it is a much more complex phenomenon than it may seem, it is multi-causal and requires reflection,” said the president of the Navarrese Parliament. Chivite wanted to add that “most people are not violent” and that the solution could be through a “pedagogical work with the whole of society of what coexistence and respect mean”.
The Health Minister, Santos Induráin, for her part added a factor that may be part of the cause of the problem: the increase and “worsening” of symptomatic manifestations of “emotional distress or anxious and depressive symptoms” among the youth population. The person in charge of Health has pointed out that the confinement and the pandemic situation have resulted, there has been “a worsening of the symptomatic manifestations of emotional discomfort, anxious, depressive symptoms, excessive sexualization, impulsivity, irritability, need to transgress, increase in consumption of alcohol and screens, alteration of the eating pattern, self-injurious behaviors, tension among adolescents, violent behaviors, meeting to hit or exhibitionism in social networks. “The counselor has indicated that these behaviors” begin at an earlier age “and have affected the importance of their early detection so that they “do not take root in the behavioral pattern of young people”.
Induráin has announced that the Regional Executive has already created an interdepartmental working group called ‘PostCovid in Mental Health’ to “develop shared strategies to face in a more operational and effective way the emotional consequences that the pandemic is generating, especially in people most vulnerable. ”
“The focus is only on the problems we give and not on the ones we have”
The vast majority of the episodes of violence have been carried out by young people, “but not by all young people, they are a minority”, points out Juan Gutiérrez, president of the Council of Youth of Navarra (CJN). Gutiérrez points out as one of the underlying problems the “precarious” situation faced by youth as a whole and that with the pandemic “has worsened even more”. “We are looked at badly for being on the street or on a bank, but we have no alternative, we do not have the same means that older people can have to spend an entire afternoon on a terrace,” he says. The president of the CJN condemns violent acts, which he says “are committed by a minority” and is committed to providing “real and accessible alternatives for leisure” from the institutions.