Politicians urge Catalan public to enjoy Sant Jordi
Yellow roses become a symbol in support of pro-independence leaders in jail and abroad
In Catalonia, Sant Jordi is a unique celebration of books, roses and love. Although red is the traditional color for roses, another color has become extremely popular this year: yellow.
In recent months, this has been the color used by pro-independence supporters to call for the release of jailed leaders, as well as showing support for those seeking refuge from the Spanish judiciary abroad. According to some estimates, more than 7 million roses will be sold today. Yellow roses could account for up to 700,000. Òmnium Cultural, a pro-independence organization, put up an installation in Barcelona full of yellow roses.
As Catalonia finds itself in the midst of an unprecedentedly tense political crisis, the most prominent leaders across the spectrum did not miss the opportunity to make their voices heard on Sant Jordi. This is what they said.
Parliament President, from Barcelona
The president of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, said that Sant Jordi is a day to defend "rights and freedoms." The speaker expressed his wish that this April 23 will be "the last with political prisoners and exiles" and also the last "without a government." Torrent participated in an event with yellow roses at the city center of Barcelona.
Puigdemont, from Berlin
Sant Jordi’s Day celebrates “culture and fellowship,” according to deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. In a video on Monday morning, the pro-independence leader said that the annual festival “is a contribution we can make as a people and it is how we explain the way we want to be and how we want to continue living as Catalans, while also being open to the world.” The leader of the JxCat party was speaking from the German capital of Berlin, where he is waiting to hear the outcome of Spain’s efforts to extradite him.
Arrimadas says St Jordi should be "non-political"
The leader of C's, Inés Arrimadas, said that Sant Jordi should be a "non-political day" for "all Catalans" to celebrate. The unionist leader added that "no political party should own" the Day, that she insisted that should represent "any Catalan" regardless of his or her opinion on the contested issue of independence. Arrimadas said that her political party would like Sant Jordi to be recognized as an "immaterial heritage of humanity by the UNESCO."
Jordi Sànchez and Joaquim Forn, from prison
On Twitter, two jailed Catalan leaders awaiting trial for their part in the independence bid also posted messages for Sant Jordi. MP and twice presidential candidate, Jordi Sánchez, predicted he would be free to celebrate next year: “Next year I will be there with you to enjoy this special day,” he tweeted, adding, “go out and enjoy this Sant Jordi. Give books and roses as gifts,” he said. Deposed Catalan interior minister, Joaquim Forn, also in jail, tweeted: “Sant Jordi has always been the best way for us to show what we are like as a people, our essence.”
Colau urges turning “the dragon’s blood” into roses
Meanwhile, Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, made a special mention of jailed grassroots activist head, Jordi Cuixart, at a Sant Jordi breakfast with writers. Colau said that the Òmnium Cultural organization that Cuixart heads is “loved” in Barcelona and she praised its “defense and love of the language and culture” of Catalonia. It is also the first Sant Jordi’s Day since the terror attacks in August, and Colau called for “the dragon’s blood” spilt on August 17 to be “turned into thousands of roses.”
Room for all claims, says Iceta
As for the head of the Catalan socialist party (PSC), Miquel Iceta, he began the day saying Sant Jordi “is so powerful there is room for all types of claims.” Iceta focused on freedom of expression, which he said “covers everything; as long as there is respect for different opinions, no one can put a limit on freedom.” Yet, his party colleague, Salvador Illa, woke to find his house graffitied with pro-independence messages. On Twitter, the secretary of the PSC, which is opposed to independence, said he would report the incident to the police.
PP: Sant Jordi should be Catalonia's National Day
Meanwhile, the Catalan branch of Spain’s ruling People’s Party, the PPC, suggested that Sant Jordi’s Day replace September 11 as Catalonia’s national day, and that the Catalan national anthem, 'Els Segadors', also be replaced. PPC leader, Xavier García Albiol, argued on Monday morning that Sant Jordi’s Day shows the Catalans at their best and the festivity “has not been contaminated by the independence movement.”
CUP wants an end to "political repression"
The CUP MP Carles Riera said Sant Jordi is a "day of happiness and celebration, but also of pain, anger and fight" due to the current political situation. The anti-capitalist politician said that "political repression is growing and there are political prisoners and exiles." That is why he urged everyone to use "each rose and each book to ask for freedom and an end to repression" and insisted Catalan culture has always been at "the service of freedom, democracy and a Republic."