• Spain's news in English
La Diada
Vast crowds demand Catalan independence from Spain
A pro-independence demonstration on September 11th in Barcelona during the National Day of Catalonia. Photo: AFP

Vast crowds demand Catalan independence from Spain

AFP/The Local · 12 Sep 2016, 09:13

Published: 12 Sep 2016 09:13 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Crowds waved red and yellow striped Catalan flags in Barcelona and four other cities under bright sunshine on the region's national day, the "Diada", which marks the conquest of Barcelona by Spain's King Philip V in 1714.

Local police estimated that 800,000 people had taken part but Spain's central government, which fiercely opposes Catalan independence, put turnout at around 370,000 strong.

Many wore white T-shirts with the slogan "Ready" in Catalan, highlighting their belief that the northwestern region of 7.5 million people was already prepared to be its own country.

"This is the moment to stand united for the 'yes' to the Catalan Republic," Jordi Sanchez, the head of the Catalan National Assembly, a pro-independence organisation which co-organised the protest, told the rally near the regional parliament.

"We are impatient," he added. 

The run-up to the protest has coincided with a rift between separatist parties just as they target independence for the region in mid-2017.   

In the coming months "critical decisions" regarding Catalonia's future will have to be taken, the head of the regional government of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, told a meeting with foreign journalists before the rallies.   

Catalan separatists have tried in vain for years to win approval from Spain's central government to hold an independence referendum like the one held in 2014 in Scotland in Britain which resulted in a "no" vote.

After winning a clear majority in Catalonia's regional parliament for the first time ever last year, secessionist parties approved a plan to achieve independence in mid-2017.

But the plan ran into trouble in June when Puigdemont's coalition government lost the support of the tiny anti-capitalist party CUP which has the hardest line on independence. As a result it lost its clear majority in
the assembly.

'See it happen now'

The pro-independence camp hopes Sunday's mass protest will reunite and breathe new life into their campaign, which is moving along more slowly than many of its supporters would like.

"Politicians say we are close but we want to see it happen now," said 60-year-old researcher Xavier Vallve at the rally in Barcelona.   

Carmen Santos, a 58-year-old civil servant, said she hoped this "Diada would be the last before independence."    

Rallies were also held in the southern city of Tarragona, Berga in the centre, Salt in the north and Lleida in the east.    

Catalans have nurtured a separate identity for centuries, but an independence movement surged recently as many became disillusioned with limitations on the autonomy they gained in the late 1970s after the Francisco Franco dictatorship, which had suppressed Catalan nationalism.

Spain's recent economic downturn exacerbated the situation, leaving many resenting the amount of taxes they pay to the central government in Madrid to subsidise poorer regions.

Since 2012, major demonstrations in favour of independence have been held in Catalonia every year on its national day on September 11th.  

In 2013, hundreds of thousands of Catalans draped in blue, red and yellow separatist banners held hands in a 400-kilometre (250-mile) human chain across the region while in 2014 and 2015 demonstrators held massive rallies in Barcelona.

Among the political leaders who took part were Puigdemont, his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and also Barcelona's popular mayor, Ada Colau, who is ambiguous about independence.

Story continues below…

Her far-left allies, Podemos, are the only large national party backing a referendum while campaigning against independence.  

Puigdemont urged Spain's central government to address Catalan concerns.    

"Catalonia is the main political challenge that Spain faces," he said.

A recent survey showed that, for the first time, the number of those who would vote for independence has surpassed the anti-independence vote.

The percentage on Catalans who want the region to break away from Spain is now 47.7 percent, compared to 42.4 percent of people who want to remain part of Spain, according to the survey published in July.

By Daniel Bosque / AFP


For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week on Monday as acting conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available