'Scary and surreal': Kelowna teen caught in Barcelona riots OK | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Scary and surreal': Kelowna teen caught in Barcelona riots OK

Thomas Rule, 19, is studying Spanish in Barcelona and was caught in a protest Friday, Oct. 18. Michele Rule, Thomas' mother, said he is OK.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Michele Rule
October 20, 2019 - 7:00 AM

When her son decided to study Spanish at a school in Barcelona, Michele Rule didn’t think much of it.

Yes, there had been unrest in the Spanish city, but the situation seemed to have calmed down when Thomas Rule, 19, arrived at the end of August.

That was before protestors began lining the streets every night since Monday, Oct. 14. Violence and fires have filled the streets of the Catalan capital since as pro-independent protesters clash with police.

“When I spoke with Thomas on Monday, he wasn’t concerned. Everything seemed to be quite far from his apartment and his school,” said Rule, a former Kelowna city councillor. “But then Thursday things started to go sideways and the demonstrators seemed to be getting more violent. When he was out with friends, they saw police cars and fire and people were throwing rocks and petrol-bombs (also known as a Molotov cocktail).”

Thomas, however, remained safe. LinguaSchools, where Thomas will study Spanish until his term ends mid-November, wasn’t in the protest zone. More than 100 flights were cancelled and more than 30 injured as violence erupted at the Barcelona-El Prat Airport Monday.

The violence is a product of clashes between Catalan separatists and police. Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona – the country’s second-largest city – called for an end to the violence Saturday.

“This cannot continue. Barcelona does not deserve it,” Colau said.

According to a report from the Associated Press, more than 500,000 people flooded downtown Barcelona Friday in support of the movement. Later Friday evening, hundreds of masked protesters engaged in a violent clash at the National Police headquarters.

“The images of organized violence during the night in Barcelona have overshadowed the half a million people who demonstrated in a peaceful and civic manner to show they rejected the verdict,” said Catalan interior chief Miquel Buch.

Colau said Friday was the worst day of violent attacks yet. That is when Rule’s son found himself caught in the protest.

“When he called me yesterday (Friday) he had become caught up in the protest on his way home from school and a flash-bomb went off right near him,” Rule said. “He said there were police everywhere shooting rubber bullets randomly into the crowds. The city is covered in black smoke as piles of debris and trash bins have all been set ablaze.”

Worried about what his mother might be hearing on the news, Thomas knew he should call home.

“He says it is scary and surreal - he’s been to demonstrations with me as a child but of course there was never any violence,” Rule said. “I was very relieved to hear from him. Thomas is a smart young man and he is street-savvy, but when the action is moving so quickly sometimes it is hard to stay out of the way.”

Beyond the recent protests, Rule said her son has had an incredible experience in Barcelona so far.

“He loves the city and everything there is to see and do there,” she said. "We are all hopeful that things will calm down over the weekend and life can return to normal for everyone."

Rule said Saturday was a much quieter day with no shooting or explosions.

— With files from the Associated Press.

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