600,000 turn out for independence on National Day, say local police

Barcelona's Espanya square and surrounding streets fill up with protestors in blue t-shirts with the motto 'Objective independence'

Image of the thousands gathered at Plaça Espanya for the National Day 2019 celebration. (Photo: Guillem Roset)
Image of the thousands gathered at Plaça Espanya for the National Day 2019 celebration. (Photo: Guillem Roset) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 11, 2019 06:24 PM

Some 600,000 people, according to local police figures, filled central Barcelona around Espanya Square on Wednesday evening for the annual pro-independence demonstration on Catalonia's National Day.

At 3pm on Wednesday, the police began to close some of Barcelona's main roads as thousands of people began arriving in the Catalan capital for what has become an annual demonstration in support of self-determination for Catalonia.

Speaking to the media at the demonstration, president Quim Torra called it "a huge success" and said it marked the end of an era: "Today one era ends and the response to the sentences [of jailed Catalan leaders] begins," he said.

Torra was also critical of "interested" commentators who predicted a small turnout for the protest because "they did not want it to be a success," and pointed to the thousands of demonstrators, saying "the people of Catalonia always deliver."

With the rally's peak moment at 17.14 - 1714 being the year when Catalonia lost its sovereignty - the focal point for the demonstration, Espanya square, was full of people in blue t-shirts with the motto: Objectiu independència (Objective independence).

In recent years, at least a million people have come together for the march organized by the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya (ANC), and with some 450,000 registering before the event estimates suggested there would be a similar number of protestors.

Yet this year's number is the lowest since the protests began in 2012. The only time numbers fell below a million was in 2016, when 540,000 people came together in Barcelona, but that was a decentralized demonstration, with 875,000 taking part across the country.

"I'm a bit sad that after seven years we are still here. I thought that by now we should have moved ahead with it," a demonstrator named Montse told Catalan News, adding: "if they [Catalan leaders] receive a guilty verdict, it means they can send anyone to jail."

Another one of the demonstrators, Ares, said: "There are lots and lots of people here from many places, and I think that Spain is really scared of us. They won't say that, but yes, they are scared."

Jordi had come all the way from the Canary Islands: "I got here yesterday, I'm just here today," he said, adding, "I'm not happy with the situation in Spain over the last few years and I believe the independence of Catalonia gives us a chance of building a new country."

'Democratic Tsunami'

During the demonstration at Espanya Square, flags were unveiled on the Venetian Towers promoting a new platform aimed at "organizing the response" to the upcoming verdict of the Catalan Trial. 

The platform 'Democratic Tsunami' (Catalan: Tsunami Democràtic) will plan actions to respond to the verdict which is expecting in the coming weeks. The flags were hung by volunteers from the fire brigade and were shown to the gathered crowd around 6 pm as the Catalan national anthem rang out.

The group was formed on September 2 to give a "disobedient" and "non-violent" response to the sentence. The initiative made its first action last Thursday after having been publicly presented through social networks.

Members of the platform unfolded 11 banners in emblematic places in Lleida, Tarragona, Girona, Badalona, ​​Tortosa, Terrassa, and Barcelona, and 15,000 posters have been put up all over the country.