BARCELONA, Spain--University students reportedly protesting education spending cuts held a rally in front of Mobile World Congress today, choking traffic to and from the venue.
A large row of students stood in the roundabout in front of the Fira Barcelona, the event space for Mobile World Congress. Between the protesters and the Fira was a two-deep row of policemen decked out in riot gear.
The protests come as the wireless show--the largest such industry confab in the world--begins to wind down, with it's official end tomorrow. It had already narrowly missed a transit strike that would have halted subway service in the city, but was averted just before the show kicked off.
The demonstration closed off the nearby subway stations and roads, causing convention-goers to scramble to neighboring subway stations in search of transportation.
That included a lot of convention goers who didn't normally take the trains, and relied solely on cabs. At the next subway station, Poble Sec, a mass of well-dressed individuals gazed at the subway map to determine their destination, while a line of convention-goers stood behind the three ticket vending machines.
The MWC was one of the later stops along the student march that started as a peaceful rally, but turned ugly as some fringe protesters threw rocks and other objects and set fire to garbage containers, according to the Associated Press. Authorities made an unspecified number of arrests.
But by the time it got to MWC, the demonstration was fairly amiable, with most participants just standing around near the policemen. At the front of the Fira, policemen restricted anyone--protester, convention goer, or passerby--from getting close to the area. The guards were less strict near the rear, but traffic was shut down, meaning buses and cabs had to turn around when they got close to the Fira.
Protesters were a common sight throughout the show, although the scale was smaller. In the last few days, exiting convention-goers would be greeted with signs declaring that the wireless industry and individual carriers were destroying their way of life.
As such, security was tight at the show. Each person needed to present a photo ID alongside a convention badge to enter the grounds.
Fortuitously, one of the bigger events at the show, Microsoft's, was held away from the Fira, and didn't see much of the disruption from the protest.