Barcelona protests: "It's not abuse, it's rape"

Barcelona protests: "It's not abuse, it's rape"
By Pablo RamiroEmily Commander
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Barcelona protests against the sentence handed down against the five young people of "La Manada" accused of the "continuous sexual abuse" of an 18-year old girl. They think the court was too lenient.


In Spain, hundreds of people gathered in the Plaza de Sant Jaume, in front of Barcelona City Hall, to protest against the sentence handed down by the Provincial Court of Navarre against the five young people of "La Manada", or "the wolf pack". Pablo Ramiro described the scene:

"Embarrassing, outrageous, pitiful": these are the adjectives being used to describe a sentence protesters consider to be far too lenient.

Public rejection of the court's decision led hundreds of people to take to the streets all over the Iberian Peninsula. The five defendants were sentenced to nine years in prison for the crime of "continuous sexual abuse" of an 18-year-old girl during the feast of San Fermín, Pamplona, in 2016. The Attorney General's Office had asked for a 22-year sentence for the crime of sexual assault, which involves violence or intimidation against the victim. However, the court did not consider these more serious charges.

Protesters coordinated their efforts via social media, and it was not long before crowds had gathered. What began with a few shouts and beeps became, in less than half an hour, an almighty roar under the balcony of Barcelona City Hall, from which a huge sign with a purple ribbon hung.

Montse Pineda belongs to Creación Positiva, one of the groups that organized the protest. Pineda acknowledged that at first there were only about five organizations taking part, but later the attendance increased significantly within a very short space of time. So much so, in fact, that the rally turned into a mass demonstration that marched on Catalonia's High Court of Justice.

Manoli Moliner, 55, went to the rally with her daughter: "I came here for my daughter," she explains, "so that she would not have to face such injustice". Meritxell Rovira, 27, said she was confident that the rally would bring people together: "I hope that the square will not be filled by political actors alone and that ordinary people will also come out on an issue like this".

Prou violències masclistes, or_ "_Enough Male Violence" was the inscription on the banner that, after fluttering in front of the city hall, led the impromptu march. The issue of violence is precisely what was missing from the court's deliberations, although the court did concede that the defendants had forced and intimidated the young woman.

Ordinary people turned out to ask for the Spanish justice system to take a tougher line in cases of this kind. They were also angry with the strategy for the defence, which was to argue that, because the victim was now leading a normal life, she had not been traumatised. "Maybe she's trying to lead a normal life, I don't think it's anything to do with it," said Carla Torlajada, 28. "This sends the wrong sort of message".

Rovira had expected a large number of men to attend, and they did, in their hundreds. Josep Valero, 33, believes that the issue of guilt transcends the legal sphere: "the state has a part to play in this," he says: "we must unite to make this change happen".

The improvised demonstration came off without incident, the coordination between the police and the organizers allowing for the temporary closure of the main arteries and ensuring that a large police presence awaited the arrival of the march at the High Court of Justice.

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