Scuffles broke out between people who wish to ban the historical display and those who back the decision by Barcelona’s left-wing council to open the exhibition Franco, Republic, Impunity and Urban Space, which opens its doors to the public on Tuesday.
As soon as the equestrian statue was put in place outside the Born cultural centre ahead of Monday evening’s inauguration, protesters arrived, some throwing eggs at the figure which was decapitated by an unidentified vandal while in municipal storage after being removed from Barcelona’s Montjüic palace in 2001.
A group of Franco-era victims held a silent protest while supporters of Catalan independence from Spain chanted “no fascists on our streets”.
Inside, Barcelona’s deputy mayor defended the exhibition as part of a necessary debate about the symbols of the dictatorship, such as La Victòria, a statue paying homage to Franco’s victory in Spain’s civil war which stood in central Barcelona until 2011.
“I understand that there may be acts of rejection towards such uncomfortable material, but we should be even more uncomfortable that we don’t know the history of certain symbols and why they were tolerated for so many years, even after democracy was restored,” said Gerardo Pisarello.
But representatives of Catalonia’s main nationalist parties rejected the presence of pro-Franco symbols in the region’s capital.
The spokesman for the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) in Barcelona, Sergi Sabrià, said it was especially unfortunate that Mayor Ada Colau should “put Franco statues in the streets” on the same day that Catalonia’s parliament debated a move to annul all verdicts from the dictatorship’s military trials.
Under Spain’s historical memory law, pro-Franco symbols and street names should be removed, although some vestiges still remain.
Court verdicts and some laws from the 1939-75 dictatorship remain in force, however, and the 1977 amnesty law has prevented any investigation into crimes committed by officials in Franco’s fascist regime.