Mass protests, parliament response: what to expect after the verdict

Supreme Court decision on 2017 Catalan independence referendum leaders set to be announced on Monday, October 14

Pro-independence campaigners during the National Day demonstration on September 11, 2019 (by Andreu Puig)
Pro-independence campaigners during the National Day demonstration on September 11, 2019 (by Andreu Puig) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

October 11, 2019 10:34 AM

The verdict in the trial of the 2017 Catalan referendum leaders is about to be announced – some sources claim it will be out next Monday, October 14 – and mass protests, as well as political responses across the spectrum, are expected in the likely event that they are found guilty. Here's a guide on what to expect in the minutes, hours and days following the verdict: 

Catalan government and parliament's response

The Catalan president, Quim Torra, has been working on a joint response from the pro-referendum camp to counter the Spanish Supreme Court verdict – Torra has been saying for months that he will "not accept" the decision if it's guilty. But he has not disclosed what this might mean, or whether parties have come to any agreement on a joint stance. 

What Torra has said is that ultimately it will be the parliament at the forefront of the response, and one based on "democracy, self-determination and human rights." 

While the government and the parliament – both controlled by the pro-independence parties – are expected to give solemn statements in the hours after the events, the key move might be a vote in the chamber in the days afterwards. 

New attempts for self-determination with Madrid’s backing, a fresh clash with Spain’s government, general strikes, the organization of another referendum, and a new Catalan election are among likely future scenarios – yet not the unilateral freeing of the leaders being held in Catalan prisons. 

Chances of Catalonia's self-rule being suspended

The Spanish government has hinted at another suspension of Catalonia's self-rule, depending on the response from the pro-independence camp. 

Ahead of the November 10 snap general election, although the cabinet in Madrid is a caretaker one, president Pedro Sánchez says such a suspension can still be enforced. And it will if the independence camp "puts at risk" Spain's constitution, according to the Socialist leader. 

Spanish right-wing parties have recently pushed Sánchez to trigger Article 155 of Spain's magna carta, which allows the authorities in Madrid to take over the running of any region.

Lawyers, politicians, human rights groups and internationals taking sides

Defense lawyers are likely to reject a guilty verdict, and challenge it in the Constitutional Court in the following weeks – although the Supreme Court's ruling will be final, and so legally will need to be enforced. 

Jailed leader Oriol Junqueras' defense has already stated that ruling on his fate before the EU court decides on his political immunity after he was elected an MEP would be "a violation of fundamental rights."

Politicians and civil associations on both the pro-independence and unionist sides will also make their stances clear, as will the leaders who went into exile for the same events, including former president Carles Puigdemont. 

International human rights NGOs have already cast doubt on the case, as has the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Some international groups or politicians, and the international media, might also be attracted by the case. 

On the spot protests

Pro-independence civil groups have already called for "mass" peaceful demonstrations once the verdict is out, such as halting vehicles, using their horns, making noise, and protesting in the streets. 

The ANC association is also planning to put up posters across the whole country, mainly at night, "to show the rejection to the verdict". 

University students have also been urged to stop classes as soon as the verdict is out and to take to the streets. 

Big demos in the evening and unitary mass rally

ANC and Òmnium, another pro-independence group, have also announced that they will call several demonstrations across the country on the day of the verdict, at 8pm.

It is likely that a large-scale unitary demonstration will also be called in the days after the verdict, according to ANC spokesman David Fernàndez.

Figures of over a million attendees would be hoped for at the unitary mass rally. 


Five "popular and mass" marches converging in Barcelona have already been announced by ANC and Òmnium, with CDR groups also joining.  

Called 'Marches for Freedom,' they will kick off from the cities of Girona, Vic, Berga, Tàrrega and Tarragona, and each route will consist of walking 100 kilometers over three days, from Wednesday to Friday, presumably in the same week of the verdict. 

'Democratic Tsunami'

Other protests are also likely to take place, taking into account that the main pro-independence parties and civil organizations held an event on October 1 pledging to stand united in response to the verdict.

Officials of most of these groups have backed a recent initiative called 'Tsunami Democràtic' (Democratic Tsunami), which also envisages some sort of peaceful protest after the verdict.

It remains a mystery what groups like Tsunami Democràtic or CDR might be preparing and how long they might last. 

General strike

Meanwhile, two trade unions have called a general strike for Friday, October 18. The stoppage was originally called for October 11, but was postponed to make it more likely to coincide with the verdict announcement.

While the law prohibits unions from calling strikes for political reasons, the unions say they are committed to Catalonia’s national rights, which they also believe affect labor rights.

Students' unions have announced a three-day strike from October 16 to October 18. 

Unionists' response to the reaction

Unionist civil organizations have made it clear that they are ready to hold mass demonstrations in case the response by the pro-independence camp includes "going beyond" the law and "uprising."

Pro-Spanish unity parties and groups already stated as much at a unitary event on October 5.

On Friday, Madrid officials urged Spain’s Highest Court to issue a warning for the Catalan government, which has opened the door to civil disobedience as a response to the verdict.

Yet, the government in Barcelona assured that the political conflict between both executives will not affect the relationship between police forces, which was already put into question during the referendum in 2017.