Barcelona police criticised for baton charge at protest over fashion show

<span>Models present creations from the Louis Vuitton Cruise 2025 collection in Park Güell, Barcelona.</span><span>Photograph: Enric Fontcuberta/EPA</span>
Models present creations from the Louis Vuitton Cruise 2025 collection in Park Güell, Barcelona.Photograph: Enric Fontcuberta/EPA

Catalan police have been criticised for baton-charging people protesting against the closure of Barcelona’s Park Güell for it to host a Louis Vuitton-organised fashion show, as anger grows that the city is being overrun by tourists and glitzy international events to the detriment of local life.

A residents association complained that in the lead-up to the event the whole neighbourhood had been cordoned off. “For days the neighbourhood has been saturated with police and private security companies,” said one resident, Aidà Almirall Serra, adding that armed police had demanded ID cards and searched parents’ bags when they picked up their children from nursery.

“People from all over the city joined the protest that evening and the police reaction was totally out of proportion,” Almirall Serra said.

The protesters carried placards that read “your luxury is our misery” and “the neighbourhood isn’t your catwalk”. Police said seven officers were injured, none seriously. No demonstrators were harmed.

The Louis Vuitton show, named Cruise 2025 in a nod to the America’s Cup sailing competition that is being held in the city this summer, attracted celebrities such as Pharrell Williams, Sophie Turner, Ana de Armas and the former Barcelona football coach Xavi Hernández. Bernard Arnault, the CEO of the luxury goods group LVMH and, according to Forbes, the world’s wealthiest man, was also present.

The hosting of the show, along with the America’s Cup, is part of the newly elected city government’s strategy to attract wealthier visitors and make Barcelona a luxury destination. Next month the Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s high-end shopping street, will be given over to a parade of Formula One cars before the Spanish Grand Prix, and next year Barcelona will host the Financial Times’ Business of Luxury summit.

Almirall Serra was not impressed by the argument that such events would attract quality tourism when the issue was not who, but how many. “Even the tourists complain that there are too many tourists,” he said. “The problem in the case of the catwalk is twofold: passivity and impunity.”

He claimed the city had fallen over itself to accommodate the event and failed to inform residents or even to comply with its own bylaws, which state that the park, designed by Antoni Gaudí, can only be used for non-profit-making scientific or educational events. Part of the park’s famous staircase was damaged while setting up the fashion show.

Park Güell is one of the most over-touristed areas of the city and last month the local authority had a bus route to the area removed from Google and Apple map apps after local people complained that they struggled to get home because the buses were full of tourists.