Thousands of pro-independence supporters rally outside summit
Main parties for Catalan republic oppose meeting between Spain and France at foot of Montjuïc
Thousands of pro-independence demonstrators protested on Thursday morning against the summit between Spain and France due to take part later on the day.
Avinguda Maria Cristina, which runs between the twin towers next to Plaça Espanya and Montjuïc's magic fountain, was full of people waving 'estelada' pro-independence flags and singing Els Segadors, the Catalan anthem.
Organizers said that 30,000 people were at the rally, while local police put the figure at 6,500.
At 10:30am – the time the French and Spanish leaders had been due to arrive for their meeting – the crowd created a huge racket – whistling, booing and banging things in unison.
All of the mainstream parties and entities in favor of a Catalan republic joined the rally, an unusual show of unity given the disagreements and tensions within the independence movement in recent months. Last October, Junts, the junior coalition partner in government, quit the executive after complaints over the path the senior partner, Esquerra, was taking – prioritizing talks, rather than confrontation, with the Spanish government.
The rally saw many protesters chanting in support of the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who is now in exile after leaving Spain in October 2017, just after the independence referendum.
The chants did not go unnoticed by suspended parliament speaker and president of Junts Laura Borràs, who attended the rally.
For her, having president Pere Aragonès meet with Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez and French president Emmanuel Macron is a "provocation."
"We would like to have a president of the government that stands for what people say: that is that we are still here and that the Catalan independence push is still alive," she told Catalan News. Her words are in stark contrast to the recent comments from Spanish presidency minister Félix Bolaños, who claimed that the push "is over."
Catalan president Pere Aragonès spoke to the media after greeting Sánchez and Macron, and he reiterated his stance that the independence push is not over, despite claiming that "some have tried to use today's summit as a way of giving the impression that the political conflict between Spain and Catalonia is resolved, that it no longer exists."
Oriol Junqueras, president of Esquerra, left the rally after being whistled at and accused of being a "traitor" by some protestors. His party said that he had another engagement to attend at 10am.
Pere Aragonès, also of Esquerra, praised the "purposeful, positive, and self-affirming attitude" of the protesters, and said that "this is what needs to be recognized, and not minority expressions that don't represent the whole of the independence camp."
Protesters march through city
After the morning's demonstration outside the MNAC finished, thousands of protesters marched through the city of Barcelona to continue highlighting their opposition to the summit.
First the group moved towards the French consulate located just off Plaça Catalunya in the city center, blocking the street of Gran Via for a period in the process.
Afterwards, the thousands-strong demonstration started moving toward Plaça Sant Jaume, where the Catalan government headquarters building is situated.