The driver of a van plowed into a crowd enjoying a peaceful, sunny afternoon on a pedestrianized stretch of Barcelona’s most famous street on Thursday, killing at least 12 people and leaving 80 others lying bloodied on the pavement amid wrecked kiosks, in what Spanish authorities said was a terrorist attack. Two men have been arrested.
Within hours, the Islamic State claimed that the perpetrators were its “soldiers,” adding Spain to the list of European countries — including France and Britain — where vehicles have been used in attacks on civilians.
Until Thursday, Spain had been spared from the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Europe — many involving vehicles plowing into crowds — claimed by extremists in France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere.
That changed in an instant, with witnesses describing people screaming and running for their lives as the driver of the van weaved back and forth just before 6 p.m., apparently trying to hit as many people as he could. Police officers swept through the area near Las Ramblas, a wide boulevard with a large pedestrianized section, telling people to get out of the area.
“I heard a crowd screaming,” Tom Markwell, a tourist from New Orleans, told the BBC. “It sounded like they were screaming for a movie star.”
There were families out for a walk there.
I have been on Las Ramblas. If you’ve ever been to Barcelona, you probably have too. It’s a beautiful street, in a beautiful city. And now it has been turned into a site of mass murder. The driver of the van is in custody. Surprise! He’s a Muslim.
It left victims sprawled out in the street, spattered with blood or crippled by broken limbs. Others fled in panic, screaming or carrying young children in their arms. As witnesses and emergency workers tried to help the wounded, police brandishing hand guns launched a search of side streets looking for suspects.
How can these things be prevented? Seriously, how? Banning vans? Confiscating automobiles from Muslim drivers and refusing to let Muslims rent them? I’m not serious; I’m trying to make the point that the public will always be vulnerable to the weaponization of automobiles.
Sooner or later, though, the European public is going to crack, and God knows what’s going to happen. The Visegrad Group nations will one day be seen to have been prophetic.