How the Butter Goods boys narrowly avoided a tragedy.
Words by Morgan Campbell. Casey Foley switch flip photo by Daniel Luxford.
Beachside Barcelona is a very lively place. Aside from all the legitimate businesses, there are also a bunch of unauthorised salespeople. They sell everything from beer to kids toys to sunnies. On this particular day, there are a serious amount of sunnies sellers. One minute, sunglasses spruikers are chilling. Tourists everywhere. Thousands of sunnies all intricately connected to mats laid out for all to see. Tourists browse the sunglasses. All of a sudden, cops come from multiple directions. Sunglasses sellers instantaneously fold up their rugs and flee every which way across this complex set of intersections. They run in every direction imaginable. They all get away. Cops eventually bail. Things die down. Then the sunglasses come back out. The game is back on.
On August 17, 2017, I was down at Barcelona’s Barceloneta Banks with Josh Roberts, Daniel Luxford and roughly half of the Butter Goods family. We were about halfway through a fortnight’s stay in skate paradise. On this arvo, we had been dodging the fleeing sunnies spruikers for maybe half an hour or so. In the quiet times we would get a shot on the banks. But when the sirens were blazing, the human traffic was so hectic that we had to chill. It was a super hot day, and at one point a few of us were relaxing at the top of the banks. Meanwhile, Josh and Casey Foley were over near the history museum filming a line. We noticed that their line ended up at the feet of these two young police officers. To our amazement, the cops weren’t doing anything. Their police car was actually parked right in front of us, right where we were hanging.
All of a sudden, there were at least 10 sirens screaming and the sunglasses selling fellas were flying everywhere. But maybe they weren’t the focus this time. The cops that were nearby bolted to their car and disappeared within seconds. There was a series of back-to-back cops pouring down the beachfront as far as the eye could see. I saw two cops momentarily held up in some traffic; they got out of the car, got massive guns out of the boot and then jumped straight back in the car prior to fanging off. For the next 20 minutes we were hearing constant sirens. While Taylor Nawrocki was filming a line, I joked to the guys that maybe Evan Smith was skating the channel near the Barceloneta Metro entrance, and if the cops weren’t worried about the sunglasses spruikers, perhaps they were heading over to bust him? Weirdly enough, next minute Alex Lawton, Jake Darwen, Madars Apse and, of all people, Evan Smith himself rocked over with a bunch of other cats. Evan came up to us, introduced himself and had a quick chat. He seems like a nice cat. He asked us if we heard what happened. He said that it was maybe a bomb scare.
Heavy, I thought. But that wasn’t the half of it. Taylor Nawrocki got his line and the sirens just kept on blaring. We were still oblivious to what had just happened on Las Ramblas. That was until Evan came over with an updated report and I simultaneously got a phone call from my friend Alberto Polo. Alberto was crying. It started to sink in. We were just over a kilometre away from one of Barcelona’s darkest moments. Concerned about our location, he asked me what we were planning on doing. The plan was to go up to meet Mike Arnold at the Olympic Velodrome, which is up a mountain on the other side of Las Ramblas. Alberto told us that it was a bad idea to go back towards the centre as the driver was still on the run and we should head the other way. Fair call, I thought. Sorry, Mr Arnold! I discussed the plan with the crew and we figured it sounded like a sane approach to what had become a very crazy afternoon. We said our goodbyes to Evan, Alex, Darwen and crew and headed off.
After a quick visit to a store and a random encounter with French street skating pioneer Luy Pa Sin, we were directed to a ledge spot near the beach. On the way there, we noticed it was business as normal on the Mediterranean. People were basking in the heat, enjoying leisure-filled days. We were unaware of exactly which spot we were going to, but as soon as we got to the top of a behemoth set of stairs we recognised it. It was a giant bare plaza at the base of a Dubai-ish hotel. Hotel W it is called. There were just a few people around. Maybe 20 people including us. Then these young kids came up to us, a boy and a girl who were maybe 15 years old, and they asked in broken English, “You know what’s happened on Las Ramblas?” We nodded. “You know people have been killed by the van and the guy has escaped and he’s got a bomb and we heard he may be coming here.” Fuck.
We had a little group meeting and figured that if we were to head away from this place we would have to go via very busy areas, and if there were a person intending on detonating a bomb they would probably go for a busy area rather than one of sparse population. So we stayed in this isolated little part of the city for, I don’t know, maybe three hours, maybe longer. Casey filmed another line with Josh. The sun was ruthless, the air was still, choppers buzzed overhead and the sirens just kept on blaring. Eventually, a few of us walked the five kilometres home and a couple stayed to try their luck with a cab.
Barcelona is this amazing city full of life, beauty and activity. It’s filled with a massive swathe of passionate locals and a shit-tonne of international lurkers. It is truly one of the world’s most wondrous cities. It’s just impossible to believe that someone would puncture the serenity and drive a van at full speed through this city’s most pedestrian-filled walkway, deliberately mowing down over a hundred innocent people. It is still sinking in. I often think of those two fresh-faced cops we were skating near. They would have been some of the first on the scene. Their lives will never be the same; yet, they are only two of the thousands of people affected.
Check out the 'Contact' video from the Butter Goods trip to Barcelona.