1.4 million people take to the streets calling for independence
Catalonia has once again organised one of the largest demonstrations in Europe on its National Day. 1.4 million people formed a 5.2 km line in Barcelona to show their support for the creation of an independent state for Catalonia, according to local police. The organisers from the grass-roots Catalan National Assembly (ANC) put the figure at 2 million. Its president, Jordi Sánchez, urged politicians to go ahead with independence if Yes parties win a majority in the 27th of September election. “They should not let us down. They need to know that they’ve got hundreds of thousands of people behind them. Today we are on the street, tomorrow we will be in the polling station”, he said. According to Sánchez, this year's demonstration has been a “success”.
Barcelona (CNA).- Catalonia has once again organised one of the largest demonstrations in Europe. At least 1.4 million people have taken to the streets of Barcelona calling for independence in a new historic rally organised on the National Day of Catalonia and two weeks before a crucial election that is being framed as a ‘de facto’ referendum. According to the organisers from the grassroots Catalan National Assembly (ANC), there were up to 2 million people on the streets of Barcelona. The ‘Via Lliure cap a la República Catalana’ (Gateway to the Catalan Republic) covered a 5.2-kilometre stretch of one of Barcelona’s main avenues, the Meridiana, forming a colourful mosaic.
Sánchez (ANC): “Don’t let us down”
At the end of the rally, ANC’s president Jordi Sánchez urged politicians to go ahead with independence if Yes parties win a majority in the 27th of September election. “They should not let us down. They need to know that they’ve got hundreds of thousands of people behind them. Today we are on the street, tomorrow we will be in the polling station”, he said. According to Sánchez, this year’s demonstration has been a “success”.
Catalan National Assembly's international spokeswoman, US journalist and writer Liz Castro addressed the crowd at the rally but also citizens from all around the world. “Citizens of the free and democratic world”, she said, “we Catalans demand that you recognise the decision we make in the elections of the 27th of September”. Castro said that Catalans want “nothing more than to peacefully and democratically express” their desire to be independent. “We want to do it with a smile on our faces and full of confidence in our nation and in the nations of others”, she said.
A “decisive step”
The leader of the coalition ‘Junts pel Sí’, Raül Romeva, said that the 11th of September demonstration proved, “once again”, that there is a “great demand” for independence in Catalonia. “We see the immense capacity of the mobilisation of our people, who want to be listened to. We want the world to see that”, he added, pointing out that the Catalan pro-independence movement is a civic one, that goes “from the bottom to the top”, and not the other way around.
The president of the left-wing pro-independence party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, said that this should be the last National Day demonstration of a Catalonia within Spain. He argued that the huge turnout in the demonstration proves that “many citizens want to take a decisive step” towards independence. Junqueras promised that they will work to create “a new Republic, a new independent state from 27-S onwards”.
A demonstration of the “working class”
The candidate of the left-wing radical pro-independence party CUP, Antonio Baños, said that the rally was the “kick-off” for the final “break-up” with Spain. “To fill up the parliament we needed to fill up the streets first”, he said, referring to the plans of Yes MPs to achieve an overall majority in Parliament in order to declare independence. The CUP is in favour of independence, but is not running in the election within the ‘Junts pel Sí’. Together, ‘Junts pel Sí’ and CUP might win an absolute majority, according to the latest polls. Baños welcomed the fact that Meridiana Avenue became a “great metaphor” for how Catalonia could be as an independent country, and celebrated the fact that it represented a “united country” and the “working class”. Meridiana is a working-class neighbourhood of Barcelona.
More support for a referendum
Lluís Rabell, candidate for ‘Catalans Yes We Can’, a left-wing coalition that includes Podemos and which does not favour independence but supports having a referendum, said that the demonstration was “a big success”. According to Rabell, there is certainly “a political conflict” in Catalonia and many support breaking away from Spain. “However, there are many more that want to find a democratic solution to this situation and wish to hold a referendum”, he said.
Arrimadas: “Millions of Catalans” don’t want independence
The candidate for the anti-Catalan independence party Ciutadans (C’s), Inés Arrimadas, showed her “respect” to the “many people” that participated in the demonstration, but warned that there are also “millions of Catalans” that did not take part. Arrimadas said that these people are looking forward to the 27th of September election in order to “express at the ballot box” that they want “Catalans to be united and not divided”.
No reaction from Madrid
The Spanish government refused to comment on the demonstration in Barcelona, and referred the media to previous comments by Spanish Vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. The deputy of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that the demonstration was an “electoral event” for Catalan President Artur Mas. “When democracy was re-established, the 11th of September was a celebration for all Catalans, later it became a day for certain political parties to push forward their partisan interests and it has now become Mas’ electoral campaign event”, she regretted. The Catalan President did not take part in the demonstration, in order to preserve his institutional role as a representative of all Catalans.
The Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, asked the Spanish Government to “at least” respect the demonstration, as it was “peaceful and totally democratic”. Homs urged the People’s Party, the ruling party in Madrid, to change its “attitude and contempt” towards Catalonia. The minister said that Friday’s rally was the “biggest” ever organised, adding that “what has been seen in the streets will now be translated into votes in the ballot box”. According to him, an independent Catalonia would be a welcoming country, good for “everyone”, including those not in favour of independence.
50 cities all across the world organised their own ‘Gateway to the Catalan Republic’
Worldwide events linked to the ‘Via Lliure cap la República Catalana’ (‘Gateway to the Catalan Republic’) were organised by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) in preparation for the mass demonstration in Barcelona on the 11th of September, Catalonia’s National day. In total, 50 cities from across the world took part in the ‘Gateway to the Catalan Republic’ between the end of August and the first week of September with Poland being the first country to organise its own demonstration and events related to the National Day’s commemoration. As they have done for the last three historic demonstrations, the international sections of the ANC prepared different celebrations and gatherings in many cities in North and South America and Australia as well as in Europe.
‘Via Lliure’ abroad
On the 23rd of August, Amsterdam and Berlin reproduced their own ‘Gateway’ and on the 30th of August, the largest number of cities with Catalan residents joined the celebration: New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santiago de Chile and Brisbane (Australia). London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brussels, Paris, Mexico City, San Salvador and other cities organised similar gatherings and street parties between the 5th and 6th of September.
During the celebrations, Castellers displayed traditional human towers and there were popular folkloric dances performed by international Colla Sardanistas. Large arrowheads were built symbolically pointing to the “Gateway to the Catalan Republic” with the message #CataloniaSaysYES as people across the world demanded the right of the Catalan people to vote on independence democratically and peacefully. Ten programmed stops were made in each demonstration to celebrate the pillars of the new Catalan State in the event that it achieves independence: Democracy, Education and Culture, Openness to the World, Welfare and Social Justice, Innovation, Diversity, Sustainability, Regional Balance, Solidarity, and Equality.
4th historic demonstration
Since 2012, more than a million people have demonstrated peacefully in Catalonia calling for independence. Following the 2012 big demonstration in Barcelona, in 2013 a human chain from one end of the country to the other with 1.5 million participants was carried out. In 2014, the V-shaped demonstration in Barcelona gathered 1.8 million people to the Catalan capital. This year’s demonstration took place only a few weeks before the Catalan plebiscitary election scheduled for the 27th of September and has received international support from Catalans across the world.