HELLO MOTO: Thursday Night Referendum Racket


Beep, beep, beep. Beep, beep beeeeeeep! “Khuh…what’s this joker behind me up to?” I think to myself sitting at the traffic lights. As soon as I’ve caught a glimpse of his cocooned head in my wing mirror HONK, HONK, HOOOOONK goes a car as it rounds the corner on the other side of the road. Then -somewhere else- blares another one. The din builds. I glance down at the little clock on my sweetie pie Vespa and it tells me that it’s 10pm. On the dot. The light turns green and it’s time to go. As I drive on the noise trickles in from all directions – tooting from cars heading one way and from motorbikes heading in another. The racket is matched by the clamor of the pots, pans and wooden spoons in the distance.

At the next set of traffic lights there is a band carrying their instruments. One’s beating part of his drum and it sounds like a cowbell. Shortly after, I reach Arc de Triomf and am briefly engulfed by pre La Merce festival buzz. Here there’s an array of estelada flags tied round some people’s necks. A whistle is added to the orchestra. One traffic lights set later I see the thick flow of traffic roar past on Gran Via and many of these vehicles too are making the same noise. The joy of zooming around Barcelona is seeing so much so quickly and seeing everyone going about their daily business and doing their different things. However, right now as I scoot through the city everyone seems to be hitting the same haphazard beat. It’s as though everyone has tuned into the same radio station and is bobbing along to the same song.

I get further up, near the top of Passeig de Sant Joan and at this set of traffic lights I can get a good view. Three old ladies are each out on their balconies beating away on their metal recipients. The one on the lowest balcony even gives me a smile and waves. At my final set of traffic lights listening to this Barcelona broadcast I see a man and two girls making themselves heard by tapping their keys on metal sign. Just after that it all stops: it’s 10.17 pm.

This is the second night in a row that people in Barcelona have made themselves heard before bed. They want independence – or at least the right to vote in the referendum that was promised by the Catalan government, which was due to take place on 1st October. Two days ago millions of leaflets, posters and ballot papers were seized by the police and members of the Catalan government were detained on the basis that the holding the referendum was against the Spanish Constitution. Unlike the Scottish referendum that took place in 2014, the plans for this vote to be held have been pushed through without mutual agreement from the rest of the country.

Quite the can of worms has been opened here and little else has been the subject of discussion .There are a heck of a lot of noises amongst this racket and it is no longer a simple  or no for independence affair. Instead, there are layers of debate. Many are those who deeply feel that it’s their right to vote and that holding the referendum is democratic; the blocking of this opportunity from Spain’s Prime Minister has riled people. Many are also those who are upset with how the situation has escalated and believe that deviating from the Spanish system for 1st October vote has been taken too far; for these people it’s important for there to be a vote and for it to be done legally. And of course, there are those who keep quiet. Those choosing not to toot, honk or beep – what do they think?

Protests are expected in the centre today.

Photography: Sally Stevens (Instagram: Sals)


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