115,000 pro-independence protestors take to streets on National Day to demand self-determination

Four different marches walk to Barcelona's Plaça Espanya square, representing "fundamental values of Catalan republic": freedom, language, country, and sovereignty

Demonstrators take to the streets on the 11th consecutive National Day pro-independence protest in Catalonia on September 11, 2023
Demonstrators take to the streets on the 11th consecutive National Day pro-independence protest in Catalonia on September 11, 2023 / Jordi Borràs

Emma Monrós, Cillian Shields, and Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

September 11, 2023 04:40 PM

September 11, 2023 08:12 PM

Thousands of people – 115,000 according to local Guàrdia Urbana police and 800,000 according to the organizers, Catalan National Assembly (ANC) – took to the streets once again for a mass demonstration on Catalonia's National Day to call for the territory's independence from Spain.

This is the 11th year in a row that civic groups in favor of splitting from the country have organized a demonstration across Catalonia.

In speeches given in front of the thousands of gathered demonstrators, ANC figureheads warned that "any negotiation with Madrid must be done for independence." Speakers also said that talks should include "recognizing" the 2017 independence referendum. 

This year's event had its climax at 17:14 (5:14 pm), a reference to 1714, when Catalonia lost its sovereignty during the Spanish Succession War on September 11. Instead of organizing a large march in Barcelona, Catalonia's National Assembly (ANC) planned for four different marches starting in four different points of the city and converging in Plaça d'Espanya square.

It was around 6:30 when the four different columns reached the central square accompanied by estelades flags and many chants in favor of self-determination and calling Junts MEP and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, "our president," even though he has not been in the post since October 2017, when he left Spain to go to Belgium after the October 1 independence referendum deemed illegal by Spain. 

The four columns symbolized the "fundamental values of the Catalan republic," according to the organizers — freedom, language, country, and sovereignty. These departed from Ciutat de la Justícia (freedom), Escola Proa (language), Plaça dels Països Catalans (country), and Plaça del Doctor Letamendi (sovereignty).

The four starting points are "places of reivindication to gain back the lost rights due to the Spanish colonialism," ANC said in a statement.

This year's motto is "Via Fora," which they translate as "Gung Ho" and describe as "a medieval cry that was used as a call to arms to defend the country and fight for its freedoms."

Minutes before the four columns started walking, organizers criticized Barcelona's Guàrdia Urbana police for "not complying" with agreements to stop traffic from 3 pm. 

Around 80 pro-independence groups confirmed their attendance to the demonstration, and organizers expected more than 200 busloads of demonstrators to arrive in Barcelona from all across Catalonia.

"Proud to be Catalan"

Demonstrators in Barcelona for the rally told Catalan News that everyone in attendance was "proud to be Catalan." 


One local protester, Sara, said that it was her first time attending the protest after missing previous ones for various reasons, but explained that "everyone that feels proud to be Catalan is celebrating here together."

Roger, another demonstrator, underlined the importance of the 2017 referendum, "which was a success," he says. "However, we were not able to form a new country, so we want to keep fighting."


Another man also named Roger struck a similar tone to his namesake: "We are here because we think we have to be on the streets in order to keep fighting our saga against Spain, because we want to become a new state in Europe."

Meanwhile, Adrià had a warning for Catalan politics. "No matter if they fight or not, the people still support Catalan independence, even if it is with or without them," he said, adding that he's "not happy" with how the politicians have managed the independence push.