Covid-19 prevents 9th consecutive National Day mass pro-independence rally

Organizers call over a hundred small protests with a total capacity of 48,000, but health experts advise against events

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 9, 2020 11:23 AM

The main highlight of Catalonia's National Day this Friday will still be the pro-independence demonstrations, but by no means will it match the rallies of the previous eight years.

Covid-19 has forced the event to be adapted to the pandemic, and the images of hundreds of thousands of people calling for a Catalan state will not be seen this year.

Its organizer, the civic organization Catalan National Assembly (ANC), has given up the idea of a large-scale protest and has instead called 107 small events in 82 different municipalities.

All the demonstrations will have capacities capped and the largest of which will be held in Badalona, just north of Barcelona, with 1,700 – the smallest one will be in Taüll, in the Pyrenees, with a maximum of 12 people. On average, the decentralized events will hold between 200 and 300 people.

The total capacity of the roughly hundred protests will be 48,000 – very far from the official figure last year, 600,000, and the highest-attended edition, in 2014, when 1.8 million turned out.

Each protester will be guaranteed 4 square meters, the organization assured, which also added that all events will be static.

Face masks will be compulsory, as well as prior registration, which will be checked at the entrance of each event where attendees will be able to use hand sanitizer.

The meeting points were originally thought to target Spanish institutions, but safety measures changed plans in several cases and this intention is now blurred.

"This is the biggest demonstration adapted to Covid-19 in Europe," said the ANC official Adrià Alsina. 

Health experts discourage September 11 rallies

Yet, despite the efforts of ANC to adapt to the pandemic, health officials and experts advised against attending the protests, as did unionist politicians such as Carlos Carrizosa of Ciudadanos.

"It is not appropriate to hold them, gatherings are not good," said the public health secretary, Josep Maria Argimon, in an interview with Rac1 station.

Two of Catalonia’s top epidemiologists, Oriol Mitjà and Antoni Trilla, also both discourage holding large-scale events for the National Day. "It's a risk we shouldn't take," Mitjà said in an interview on Catalan television station, TV3.

Protest from balconies and online

The Catalan government has rejected attending any of the 107 demonstrations and only three of its members will take part in the customary floral tribute to Rafael Casanova. 

Yet, ministers will be in their balconies on Friday at 17.14 – this is the time and place of another initiative backed by ANC to demand independence despite Covid-19.

The host organization is also trying to launch a virtual network of independence supporters through QR codes.