Nigerian community unsettled at the Ramblas ‘trial’

View of Barcelona from outside Dorniva (Photo by Josep Lago/Getty Images) It has taken just a fortnight for riot police to break the four week trial of what has so far been the deadliest…

Nigerian community unsettled at the Ramblas 'trial'

View of Barcelona from outside Dorniva (Photo by Josep Lago/Getty Images)

It has taken just a fortnight for riot police to break the four week trial of what has so far been the deadliest attack on a crowd in Barcelona’s history.

Ahmed Alhaji Arbery was stabbed to death in the early hours of 21 June 2017. His murder came as a shock to Barcelona locals – but it caused quite a stir in the Nigerian community in Spain, too.

The 45-year-old had been living in Barcelona for 15 years and owned businesses, including a popular Bar Topje studio on Paseo de Gracia and several restaurants.

The attack prompted a vast outpouring of anger from members of the Nigerian community as well as spontaneous street protests and vigils.

There was a swell of worldwide condemnation of the murder and thousands of Nigerians in Barcelona have been booked for watching the trial in court, or in front of it.

Yet things have now become a little tense.

What started off as a sort of carnival atmosphere in Barcelona’s Ramblas has now descended into public confrontation as the trial moves down the line. The tensions have boiled over into threats and intimidation.

Smokers

There’s been a number of displays of intolerance. Unwilling to be forced to inhale the noxious fumes, so the parking attendants have been complaining that they can’t work, the parking police have been complaining that they can’t work – and so the office cleaners have been complaining they can’t work.

The issue of noise pollution, another sticking point, was also a prominent topic of discussion.

Ahmed Arbery’s wife says she has been harassed by those who weren’t present in the street for not wearing a white hat, as required by the trial rules.

“The people complaining have told us, since the start of the trial, that they have been harassed for not wearing a white hat on the Ramblas and for not wearing white clothing,” she told me.

Ms Ambalat’s shop, and hundreds of others, was a popular spot for Nigerians on the Ramblas, along with a number of businesses and a number of religious places.

But not everybody in the Nigerian community supports the demand for Mr Arbery’s killers to be locked up.

At the time of the killing, former Speaker of the Catalonia parliament, Paz Ortiz, was in Ms Ambalat’s shop talking to the assistant pastry chef.

Shortly after lunch, it appeared that Ms Ambalat had been murdered by Mr Ortiz.

Mr Ortiz claims he was just following through on a promise made to his boss, whom he is now divorcing.

I asked him if he had any regrets, and he replied: “I don’t.”

No matter how furious Mr Ortiz is about the way the police arrived in their car to collect him from the scene of the crime, he told me he is simply following through on a promise he made.

I pointed out that his lawyers are insisting that he turn himself in and put himself under arrest, rather than comply with the demand.

“It’s up to them,” he told me.

More people have been lining up to oppose the trial. Alaka W. said she can’t understand why he isn’t being held on detention while a decision is made on whether to try him.

But she also said the fact that Mr Arbery’s wife was the one smoking had made it worse.

“The reason it isn’t being tolerated is because of the smoke they are finding here and also the fact that his wife smokes.”

Spanish law requires no smoke be allowed in public places, but it’s a law that’s been very lax about enforcing.

The trial isn’t formally finished yet.

In a few weeks, final testimony will begin.

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