Events across Catalonia mark 2017 referendum with 'discouragement' due to independence disunity

President says government 'will manage to hold another vote' and insists on Canada-like Clarity Act

Image of the main pro-independence protest to mark the 2017 referendum's fifth anniversary, on October 1, 2022
Image of the main pro-independence protest to mark the 2017 referendum's fifth anniversary, on October 1, 2022 / Guifré Jordan
Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | @enGuifre | Barcelona

October 1, 2022 03:17 PM

October 1, 2022 05:30 PM

Several events across Catalonia marked the 2017 independence referendum on Saturday five years on.

The main one was held in Barcelona's Arc de Triomf from 5pm, in which all mainstream pro-independence parties and entities attended. 

A few thousands of people attended in a half-full Passeig de Lluís Companys, between the Arc de Triomf and the Parc de la Ciutadella main entrance.

Hosted by Consell de la República, Òmnium, ANC, and AMI civic groups, as well as Intersindical trade union and Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce, all factions of the independence campaign were together, unlike during the September 11 National Day march. 

Yet, this was not the only event that took place during the day. From the early morning, gatherings to have breakfast, institutional events, conferences, and protests were seen in several locations, especially outside some of the schools that acted as polling stations and that witnessed the Spanish police crackdown that day.

For instance, gatherings took place in La Ràpita (Ebre river region) or Sant Julià de Ramis (near Girona, in the north), where the then-Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, was expected to vote but could not due to the police violence – the former leader ended up casting his ballot in a nearby town.

In Lleida's Cappont primary care center, dozens of protesters gathered to remember the fact that this polling station was the first one in Catalonia that received the riot officer's visit.

Meanwhile, in Girona, around 100 people took part in a performance that included marches and climbing the town hall in order to hang a banner reading 'Girona sets free.'

In Tarragona, also some 100 people protested, showing disappointment at the current political leadership of the pro-independence movement, at the moment entangled in a crisis that could see a decade-long cooperation of the mainstream parties for Catalonia's governability vanish in the coming days.

The same feeling was seen in an event held by grassroots organization Òmnium in Barcelona.

The current lack of unity among the parties shows "a political incapacity that has generated discouragement, frustration and confusion," according to Òmnium's president, Xavier Antich.

"That power that we gained is now eroded and damaged," he said. "The partisan battle, clashes, useless fights and disagreements have led to a situation of institution paralysis and political limbo."

He called on political forces to look for new leaderships in order to open a "new political cycle."

President: "We have to come together again"

The Catalan government was expected to hold an institutional event to mark the day, but the current crisis of confidence between coalition partners turned the plans into an institutional speech by President Pere Aragonès.

"We managed to hold the October 1, 2017 referendum, and we will manage to hold another vote," he said.

"We have to come together again, and work towards what unites us," Aragonès added. "There is a broad consensus about the fact that Catalonia has to freely decide its future peacefully."

Without referring to the current government crisis, he insisted on his idea to seek a Canada-like Clarity Act, as first put forward earlier this week in the general policy debate.

Check out our podcast published exactly 5 years after the vote: