1.6 million independence supporters form an historic 400km-long human chain throughout Catalonia
The civil society platform that organised the colossal ‘Catalan Way towards independence’ demanded a self-determination referendum to be held in 2014 and not at a later stage. The festive demonstration was a great success, gathering more participants than last year’s 1.5 million strong rally, which was also organised on Catalonia’s National Day. Most of the Catalan Government Ministers took part in the human chain, but neither the President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, nor the Chairperson of the Catalan Parliament took part. However, they did both gave their personal support to the peaceful demonstration. Many folkloric performances and festive celebrations were carried out throughout the non-interrupted human chain. 500,000 citizens held hands in the city of Barcelona alone, and a total of 1.6 million Catalans participated in the rally, according to the Catalan Police.
Barcelona (ACN).- The ‘Catalan Way towards independence’ became a great success, gathering more participants than last year’s 1.5 million strong rally, which was also organised on Catalonia’s National Day. The civil society platform that organised the colossal 400-kilometre-long uninterrupted human chain demanded a self-determination referendum to be held in 2014 and not at a later stage. The demonstration was carried out this Wednesday between 4pm and 6 pm in a festive and peaceful atmosphere, gathering many families and people from all walks of society. Most of them were wearing Catalan flags and yellow t-shirts for the occasion, a recommendation of the organisers in order to better be seen. Many Catalan figures from the political, cultural and socio-economic world participated in the demonstration. The human chain reached its peak at 17:14, when all the participants held hands and shouted “Independence!” several times. This was a symbolical time honouring the events from 1714, when Catalonia lost its self-government institutions, laws and freedoms. From that time onwards Catalan language was also banned and persecuted and a severe political repression was endured. Many folkloric and artistic performances were enjoyed throughout the 250-mile human chain, which spanned Catalonia from north to south. Furthermore, local groups organised small human chains in southern France and in the Valencian Country (also called Valencian Community), which were attached to the main ‘Catalan Way’. On Monday, the Spanish Government had banned the human chain in València for “security reasons”, but the Autonomous Community’s Supreme Court authorised it this morning.
500,000 citizens joined hands just in the city of Barcelona, and a total of 1.6 million Catalans participated in the rally, according to the Catalan Police. However, the Catalan Home Affairs Minister, Ramon Espadaler, emphasised “the difficulties” in calculating such a figure but he stated that 1.6 million “would be the lowest estimate”. This means it is the largest demonstration that has ever taken place in Catalonia. The Catalan Government’s Spokesperson, Francesc Homs, stated that “very few noble causes, such as the freedom of a people, could gather so much support at world level”. Hundreds of thousands of Catalans travelled throughout the country to demonstrate in one of the 788 stretches that the organisers had split the ‘Catalan Way’ into. For a few hours the entire Catalonia was literally paralysed with the massive demonstration. After the rally, the Catalan President sent a message to the Spanish Government: “it is about time that the Spanish State authorities – since we are now in a democracy – listen to the voice of Catalonia’s people and respect their will to decide on their own future”.
The ‘Catalan Way towards independence’ has been “a great success” stated the Chairperson of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Carme Forcadell, in front of a cheering crowd in central Barcelona. The ANC is a grass-roots organisation – formed of several territorial groups – which organised both last year’s 1.5 million strong demonstration and today’s human chain. Forcadell was visibly moved by the huge participation that built on last year’s event. The ANC also highlighted how the “great logistical challenge” had been overcome with such a success. However, Forcadell also sent a clear and strong message in the afternoon, similar to the message she had given the Catalan President on the morning in a meeting before the start of the human chain.
An independence referendum to be held in 2014
Concluding the ‘Catalan Way towards independence’, Carme Forcadell stated in front of the crowd that a self-determination referendum was to be held in 2014 and not at a later stage. “In front of historical actions, historical decisions need to be made” she emphasised referring to the 1.6 million people, 400-km-long human chain. She asked the President of the Catalan Government to call for an independence vote as “a commitment with the Catalan people” and to “act according to its results”. In addition, she added that the question has to be a clear and single one, to which citizens can respond with a “yes” or a “no” in order to obtain “a clear answer”. Forcadell stated that “any democratic and peaceful means” should be used to ask the citizens what they want for their collective future. According to the ANC Chairperson, Catalonia is in front of “an historical crossroads” that has “two possible paths”, “either to yield to Spanish State centralism and disappear as a people, or to gain independence”.
Many members of the Catalan Government participated in the rally, but not the President
Most of the Catalan Government Ministers took part in the ‘Catalan Way towards independence’, as well as the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, as did many other elected officials. However, the President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, and the Chairperson of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert stated they could not participate because of their institutional positions as the country’s two main public figures. Despite this fact, they both gave their personal support to the peaceful and festive demonstration that was univocally asking for the independence from Spain. They both emphasised that Catalonia was sending a message to the international community with this demonstration.
The Spanish Government should “listen at last to the Catalan people”, stated Mas
On the evening after the human chain, the Catalan President Artur Mas gave a speech in Ripoll, in the Catalan Pyrenees. Mas stated that the human chain had been “an overwhelming success”. He emphasised that Catalans had “given a true lesson of our best values”, showing them “to the world”. In addition, he sent a message to the Spanish Government: “it is about time that the Spanish State authorities – since we are now in a democracy – listen to the voice of Catalonia’s people and respect their will to decide on their own future”. Finally, he also insisted on his commitment to allow Catalans “to freely, peacefully and democratically decide on their future” in 2014.
A demonstration inspired by the ‘Baltic Way’ of 1989
The ‘Catalan Way’ was inspired by the ‘Baltic Way’, which was a human chain formed in 1989 and spanned the length of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It was requesting the independence of the three Baltic states from the USSR, which was accomplished in 1991. In fact, organisers of that demonstration have now given their support to the ‘Catalan Way’.