Pro-Catalan independence supporters have been accused of yelling sexist insults at Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau at her investiture ceremony on Saturday. Colau, of the leftist Barcelona en Comú party, the Catalan branch of the left-wing Podemos party, was reelected as mayor thanks to a deal between the Catalan arm of the Socialist Party (PSC) and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), which is led by former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
But the deal has angered pro-independence supporters, who argue Ernest Maragall from the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) should govern Barcelona because his party received the most votes at the May 26 regional election, even though it failed to secure a majority. The ERC won 21.35% of the vote, while Barcelona en Comú took 20.71%. Both picked up 10 councilors, making it a technical tie. Colau had pushed for a deal between ERC and PSC, but both parties rejected the proposal. In the end, Colau accepted the three votes from Ciudadanos, offered by Valls to ensure that City Hall did not fall into the hands of Catalan separatists.
Hundreds of supporters of the independence movement gathered in Sant Jaume plaza to protest Colau’s investiture. According to Laura Pérez, a councilor with Barcelona en Comú party, after the ceremony, the pro-independence protesters called Colau and other members of her group “whores, sluts and bitches” as they left Barcelona City Hall and to the headquarters of the regional government, located just a few meters away.
In a Facebook post, Pérez said: “Despite the joy of beginning a new mandate at the service of Barcelona yesterday [Saturday] was a very hard day. The mayor and several female councilors suffered verbal violence that is specifically used against women.”
According to Pérez, some of the protesters also threw coins, bottles and paper bags at the politicians as they crossed the square.
Despite the joy of beginning a new mandate at the service of Barcelona yesterday was a very hard day
Barcelona councilor Laura Pérez
"As a public representative I am used to people coming up to me in the street and in participation spaces. Sometimes it is to severely criticize our political actions. I think that is part of democratic life, but what happened yesterday was painful, and more than anything, an attack against all the women who have taken the step to enter into politics,” Pérez added.
The message ended with Pérez promising “to do everything in my power to ensure personal attacks and sexism have no place in the political life of Barcelona. I know the majority of us think this way in all parties.”
According to Barcelona’s local police force, the Guàrdia Urbana, 2,300 people watched the investiture ceremony at Barcelona City Hall from Sant Jaume square. While some were there to support Colau, most were there in protest, waving posters against Colau and yelling chants against her. When Colau left City Hall with the rest of the councilors to walk to the regional Parliament, the shouts rose dramatically.
Pérez told EL PAÍS that she respected the right to protest but was upset that “female councilors received a different attack on Saturday for being women. Not only did they call us ‘traitors,’ and scream ‘out, out,’ we were also called ‘sluts and whores’.”
Pérez argued that this type of sexist violence, including verbal violence, cannot be normalized. She added that while some councilors were being insulted, representatives from the separatist parties ERC and Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) were applauded by the protesters.
English version by Melissa Kitson.