BARCELONA, Spain — More than 100 angry locals took to the streets of Barcelona on Wednesday night to protest against Mobile World Congress, a huge technology industry conference that brings more than 100,000 people to the city each year.
Holding banners and some waving black flags, the 150-odd protesters marched through the streets of Barcelona’s gothic quarter from 7PM onwards. They chanted in Spanish, blew horns, and handed out leaflets to passersby criticising the conference’s effect on the city.
“Barcelona kneels before the showcase of capital controlled by the multinational cell-phone giant,” one English-language leaflet said. “Say no to the Mobile World Congress and the Barcelona Brand! Say no to the Congress that wants to monitor us electronically! Say no to the Barcelona that wants us to be passive extras while it does business!”
It criticises the “precarity of jobs, unemployment benefits for youths and crappy jobs … invasive tourism, [Barcelona’s] identity usurped with increasingly high rents that could only be paid by tourists with money to burn.”
Business Insider saw the protests shortly before 8PM; it’s not immediately clear where it went afterwards. (Were you a protester? Did you see the protest? Get in touch: [email protected])
Mobile World Congress takes place at the end of February each year, and transforms the city while it’s ongoing. The streets fill with tech sector employees, executives, and the media, while sky-high rates are charged for hotel rooms and apartment rentals.
This year, the tech visitors to Barcelona were also greeted by “Anti-MWC” posters plastered throughout the city attacking the conference and promoting alternative events.
Mobile World Congress has been affected by protests before. In 2012, a student protest outside of the conference centre caused chaos and turned violent at times.
And on Sunday this year, Samsung’s big press conference was interrupted by an unrelated protest from Greenpeace. The environmental activist group scaled the venue the event was being held in and tried to unfurl a banner before taking to the stage of the event to pressure the South Korean company to recycle its smartphones properly.
Mobile World Congress did not immediately respond to a request for comment.