'Several tens of thousands' to descend on Madrid for Saturday's Catalan trial protest
Organizers are putting on 400 buses from Catalonia and around Spain to march in favor of granting legal recognition for the independence process
More than 50 pro-independence groups and political parties are calling on people from across Spain to participate in a rally for the "right to decide" of Catalonia in central Madrid.
Starting at 6pm on Saturday, the protest will pass through Paseo de Prado – the symbolic and geographical heart of the Spanish capital – under the banners "Self-determination is not a crime" and "Democracy is about deciding".
Rights and sovereignty
A few away kilometers from El Prado, 12 Catalan pro-independence leaders have been on trial for four weeks at the Spanish Supreme Court, facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, among others, for their role in the October 2017 referendum, which Spain deemed as illegal.
The Catalan associations behind this weekend's march have long argued, however, that the trial cannot be justified – on the basis that the Catalan government should have the legal freedom to choose its own sovereign future.
These organizers – led by Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural, pro-independence movements whose leaders and former leaders are among those in the dock – say they are expecting "several tens of thousands" of people to take part.
Around 400 buses have been laid on from Catalonia and across Spain to transport protesters to Madrid for the mass demonstration.
Various collectives and political formations have already signed up, including 'Madrileños for the Right to Decide', the 'Anti-Repression Movement of Madrid', the 'Student Referendum Movement' and 'Mothers against Repression'.
Another side of Spain
"There is another Madrid that is not the one of Colón", said Jaime Pastor, one of the organizers, referring to the controversial protest by right-wing political parties, which took place in Madrid's Plaza de Colón in early February.
Unlike the Cólon rally, where leaders of Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and Vox showed a united front against talks on Catalonia, there will be no politicians at the head of the march.
Pastor said the aim of this protest was to reflect that there is a part of Spanish society which wants to take "a different path" – one of "solidarity and coexistence" – that "is not limited to recognizing the right to self-determination of the Catalan people but of all peoples."
Catalan independence supporters have already held mass protests in Barcelona to coincide with the start of the trial, as well as a general strike across the territory on 21 February.