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Angry business leaders slam Barcelona for slow response to attack on tourist bus

City officials accused of failing to act over vandalism by radicals against vehicle in the Catalan capital

The bus was sprayed with the words “Tourism kills the barrio.”
The bus was sprayed with the words “Tourism kills the barrio.”

Barcelona’s business community has criticized the city’s authorities for its slow and tepid response in dealing with an attack against a tourist bus in Barcelona last week by a radical group called Arran, which is linked to the tiny, radical-left CUP party, which plays a key role in the municipal and regional governments.

On Thursday, a group of masked individuals stopped an open-top tour bus packed with tourists close to the Camp Nou stadium, home to Barcelona FC, slashing one of its tires and then spraying “Tourism kills neighborhoods” on it.

When you don’t criticize acts of vandalism, you are justifying them

Former Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias

Barcelona City Hall did not respond to the incident until Sunday afternoon, when Mayor Ada Colau condemned the attack via Twitter. Interim mayor Jaume Collboni had been alone among council members in condemning the attack the day before.

On Monday, Barcelona’s municipal transport company, which owns the vehicle, brought the incident before the courts, estimating the damage at more than €1,800.

Collboni, a member of the Socialist Party (PSC), said: “These outbreaks of anti-tourist feeling are xenophobia.” He called on the radical CUP party, which has links to the group that carried out the attack, to condemn the violence.

We have requested a report and we denounce the attack on the tourist bus. Protesting against tourism should never happen, nor should intimidating people or damaging equipment

Barcelona City Hall and the regional government of Catalonia have not criticized CUP over the incident. The anti-capitalist party is key to holding up the Catalan government as it pushes ahead with plans for an independence referendum on October 1, and it also holds the balance of power in Barcelona City Hall.

Collboni’s message failed to calm the fears of Barcelona’s tourism sector. There has been mounting resentment in some areas of the city toward rising visitor numbers, with locals saying they are being pushed out by rising prices and rents.

A month ago, the city’s chamber of commerce and other business organizations criticized Colau for her handling of tourism in the city, issuing a manifesto that highlighted their fears about “radical proposals.” On Monday, other business representatives sent an open letter to City Hall outlining their concerns. They called on the mayor to “make a firm, unequivocal, and active condemnation” of the attack.

There are videos showing masked individuals puncturing bicycle tires and spray painting hostile messages on hotels.

Neighborhood business groups in Barcelona say that the attack against the tourist bus last week was not an isolated incident, as City Hall insists. News media have issued videos showing masked individuals puncturing the tires of bicycles in the city, as well as spray painting messages telling tourists to go home on hotels.

Business leaders say they are “worried about the consequences of successive attacks and vandalism on tourism” and the impact on the city’s image as a major tourism destination.

Colau was accused of trying to cover up the incident by former Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias of the PDeCAT party, which is part of the pro-independence Junts pel Sís coalition that heads the regional government. “When you don’t criticize acts of vandalism, you are justifying them,” he said on Monday.

The head of Barcelona’s tourism department, Agustí Colom, was unable to explain why he was not informed of the attack on the tourist bus until midday on Friday, saying he would look into the matter.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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