The 3rd massive Catalan independence demonstration will be backed by events abroad
The Catalan National Assembly, a grass-roots organisation, and Òmnium Cultural, a non-profit association promoting Catalan culture, are behind the massive independence demonstrations of 2012, 2013 and 2014, and in July they presented their new campaign 'Now it's time, united for a new country'. They aimed to mobilize the Catalan people for the self-determination vote scheduled on November the 9th. There will be events throughout Catalonia and abroad during the 2 months before Catalonia’s National Day (September the 11th). On that day, a massive demonstration in the shape of a giant V, for 'Votar' (To Vote) and 'Victòria' (Victory), will take place in Barcelona, which is expected to become the largest rally in the Catalonia's history. In addition, more than 30 ANC groups abroad are organising a worldwide campaign #votecatalonia. The political marketing firm Blue State Digital, which managed Obama's digital campaigns, is involved in the initiative.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan National Assembly (Assemblea Nacional Catalana, ANC), a grass-roots pro-independence civil society organisation, and Òmnium Cultural, a non-profit association promoting Catalan language and culture, are behind the massive independence demonstrations of 2012, 2013 and 2014, and in July they presented their new campaign 'Ara és l'hora, units per un país nou' (Now it's time, united for a new country). They aim to mobilize the Catalan people before the coming self-determination vote, scheduled on the 9th of November, and to encourage voting for Catalonia's independence from Spain. There will be events throughout Catalonia and abroad during the 2 months before Catalonia’s National Day (September 11th). On that day, a massive demonstration will take place in Barcelona, where large groups of people will form a giant V – for 'Votar' (To Vote), 'Via' (Way), 'Voluntat' (Will), and 'Victòria' (Victory) – in two long avenues of the Catalan capital (Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Diagonal) that meet in a large square. Organisers expect this demonstration to become the largest rally in the history of Catalonia. The pro-independence demonstration of September 2012 gathered 1.5 million people according to the Catalan Police. Last year's demonstration, in which a 400 km-long human chain spanned Catalonia from north to south, gathered together more than 1.6 million people. In addition, in parallel to the so called 'Catalan Way Towards Independence’, there were 126 other human chains formed throughout the world, with over 10,000 participants in total. This year, between the 1st of August and the 11th of September, more than 30 ANC groups all over the globe, established by Catalans living abroad to raise awareness about Catalonia's self-determination, are organising a worldwide campaign #votecatalonia. The political marketing company Blue State Digital, which managed Barack Obama's digital campaigns, is involved in ANC's and Òmnium's campaign. Their goal is to add 500,000 undecided people to the pro-independence camp, in order to secure the victory of the "yes" option in the consultation vote. A special website, votecatalonia.org, was launched to offer the basic information about the ‘V’ pro-independence demonstrations, the self-determination vote and related news.
This month, the ANC and Òmnium Cultural presented the campaign to foster participation in both the massive demonstration planned for Catalonia’s National Day on the 11th of September and the coming self-determination vote scheduled on the 9th of November. Under a double slogan 'Ara és l'hora, units per un país nou' (Now it's time, united for a new country), the campaign aims to bring together around 2 million people who will demonstrate their support for self-determination on the 11th of September once again. This time they will not form a colossal human chain, rather a gigantic V along the two main avenues of central Barcelona: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Diagonal, which unite in the Glòries Catalanes Square. The V is for 'Voluntat' (Will), 'Votar' (To Vote), 'Via' (Way) and 'Victòria' (Victory). This rally is the third large-scale pro-independence demonstration on the Catalan National Day after those of 2012 and 2013, which gathered together 1.5 million and 1.6 million supporters respectively, according to the Catalan Police.
The ANC and Òmnium Cultural seek to make this event the biggest rally in Catalonia's history, surpassing the demonstrations of 2012 and 2013. They aim to convince 500,000 people who currently have doubts on whether to support independence to vote for the "double yes". In fact, the self-determination vote scheduled on the 9th of November will have a two-part question: "Do you want Catalonia to become a State? If yes, do you want this State to be independent?" Those supporting independence should answer "yes" to the two parts and those wanting a federated Catalan State within Spain should answer "yes" to the first one and "no" to the second one. Right now, there are 2 million Catalans who are estimated to vote "yes-no", to abstain, or who are still undecided about their vote.
In order to achieve these goals, including increasing independence support by 500,000 additional people, different actions are planned. The political marketing company Blue State Digital, which managed the digital campaigns for Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff, as well as the one of the British unionists, Better Together, is involved in the campaign. It plans to carry out actions in an American style, with a direct approach to the potential voters.
The campaign also involves the participation of different entities, such as Òmnium Cultural (an NGO promoting Catalan language and culture) and the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), a group of town councils established in 2011 in order to promote Catalonia's right to self-determination and independence at a municipal level.
Ambitious campaign on a world scale
In addition, a new website – votecatalonia.org – has been launched to offer information about the ‘V’ rally, parallel demonstrations, the independence vote and related news. The website is available in English, Catalan and Spanish. Participants can register and download material and a guide on how to take part in the events. It includes information about the ‘V’ demonstrations that will take place abroad during the summer. It will be updated through Google Maps and a list of cities will be available with the exact details on when and where the event will take place. In the morning of the 11th of September, rallies will be held in front of each of the 947 municipalities in Catalonia. Furthermore, there are already 30 demonstrations planned to take place in cities throughout the globe. More than 1.000 events have already been organised in the last few months to collect donations and the organisers estimate that 100,000 volunteers will be needed to guarantee the success of all these events.
The ANC explained that these events should mobilise Catalan people in favour of the November 9th vote and should help the world to understand their objectives. "The goal is no longer to get people to vote, but to take necessary actions to guarantee our victory," said the Campaign Coordinator, Oriol Soler.
The demonstrations will not conclude on the 11th of September. From the 12th of September to the 9th of November, the ANC will hold other events, involving the closing ceremony of the 'Sign up a Vote for Independence' campaign, in which the collected signatures will be officially presented to the Catalan Parliament. This campaign uses the right to petition to ask for a legal independence referendum and, if it is not allowed, to count each individual petition as a vote for independence.
Political tensions for Catalonia's independence heat up ahead of referendum
Although Spanish authorities are totally opposed to a self-determination vote in Catalonia, the Catalan Government, chaired by Artur Mas, plans to go ahead and hold a consultation vote on independence on the 9th of November, 2014, following an agreement backed by two thirds of the Catalan Parliament in December 2013. This agreement was the result of the mandate taken from the Catalan elections of November 2012, when 80% of the elected MPs had promised a legal self-determination vote, in which Catalans could democratically vote on their future. However, last April, Spain's Parliament overwhelmingly rejected Catalonia's request to transfer the power to organise an independence referendum to the Catalan Government. In addition, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has repeatedly called the Catalonians' right to decide on their collective future through a referendum "unconstitutional" and "illegal", and is blocking any agreement on this issue.
The poll issued in March 2014 by the Opinion Study Centre (CEO), which is linked to the Catalan Government, reveals that 74% of citizens think the future of Catalonia needs to be decided in a referendum, and that 60% of Catalans support independence. In addition, 77% of the Parliament of Catalonia has already spoken out in favour of Catalan people being consulted on this issue.
Regarding the legality of the referendum, the ANC affirmed that many academics have stated that it is legally possible to hold a referendum, and there are different legal frameworks for holding it if there is a political will to do so.
Soler emphasized the necessity to present the Scottish pro-independence campaign, Yes Scotland, to those Catalans supporting independence, as an example to follow. This campaign promotes the "yes" option in the Scottish independence referendum that will be held on the 18th of September 2014. Such a similar democratic process should encourage the potential Catalan voters to support the organization of a similar vote in Catalonia and, eventually, independence.
Peaceful and democratic path to self-determination
Changes in support for Catalan independence through time can be seen by comparing the results of recent surveys, citizen initiatives and the level of mobilization for Catalan self-determination not only in Catalonia but across the world. Until a few years ago, not many Catalans were in favour of full independence. However, in recent years, support has grown significantly. Part of the growth can be explained by Spain's economic crisis, which has made the paying of large amounts of taxes to other parts of Spain more painful for many Catalans . Several studies indicate that each year Catalans give away between 5.7% and 8.7% of their GDP (depending on the calculation formula), equivalent to €11.6 billion and €17 billion respectively. This money is spent on services and infrastructure in other parts of Spain, while the Catalan public services are under-budgeted and have to go through drastic budget cuts. Catalans have been trying to reduce such transfers for decades, but they have continued at similar levels since at least 1986. Therefore, many Catalans have given up hoping for a better fiscal deal and are convinced that Catalonia would be richer without the Spanish Government's rule.
However, not everything is about money. In 2010, a colossal protest was held in Barcelona as a result of the Spanish Constitutional Court reinterpreting and even rejecting several articles of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. Spanish Authorities overruled Catalonia's main law, approved through a binding referendum by the Catalan people, and did not recognise that Catalonia was a "nation", reinterpreting the Constitution from 1978 which states that Spain is formed of "nationalities and regions". On the 11th of July 2010, more than a million Catalans from a diverse political background felt obliged to vindicate in the street what Spanish nationalists wanted to win in the Courts. They claimed that Catalonia is a nation, and Spain should recognise this fact. The demonstration ended with many people shouting for independence which is seen as a turning point in Catalonia's recent history.
The 2014 pro-independence rally will be the third large-scale pro-independence demonstration organised by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) on the Catalan National Day, following the success of previous peaceful demonstrations. The first one was a protest march held in central Barcelona in 2012, under the slogan "Catalonia, new state in Europe", which gathered 1.5 million participants, according to Barcelona's Municipal Police and Catalonia's Ministry of Home Affairs. The second rally, which was held last year, obtained a significant coverage around the world and was called 'Catalan Way towards independence', inspired by the Baltic Way, which preceded the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the Soviet Union. The Catalan rally also included a massive human chain which spanned along 400 km and was formed by 1.6 million independence supporters. Now organisers have the challenge to improve such figures, a few weeks ahead of the 9th of November.