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PROTESTS

Meet Catalonia’s ‘remainers’: The ‘silent majority’ who don’t want independence

Catalans who want to remain in Spain seek to make their voice heard.

Meet Catalonia's 'remainers': The 'silent majority' who don't want independence
Demonstrators wave Spanish flags during a demonstration called by the anti-separatists organisation "Societat Civil Catalana" on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Most people in Catalonia do not agree with the separatist movement and want to end the protest violence, the Catalan Civil Society (SCC) head has told AFP, ahead of a major demonstration by the so-called “silent majority” in Barcelona on Sunday.

The platform, which is headed by Fernando Sanchez Costa, represents Catalan “remainers” — those who would rather this wealthy northeastern region stay part of Spain.


Fernando Sanchez Costa, head of the anti-separatists organisation Societat Civil Catalana (SCC). Photo: AFP

This region of 7.5 million people remains sharply divided over independence, with a regional government survey last month showing 44 percent in favour of separating from Spain but 48.3 percent against.

“Those who oppose independence are a majority, and that is an important message for Catalonia, for Spain and the world, where often separatism is associated with Catalonia,” he told AFP.

He was speaking on Sunday as tens of thousands of people marched for Spanish unity, staging a counter-rally in Barcelona a day after 350,000 Catalan separatists held a protest over the jailing of nine regional leaders.

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Demonstrators hold a banner reading “together we are stronger, for a Spain without fractures” during a demonstration called by the anti-separatists organisation “Societat Civil Catalana”. Photo: AFP

Around 80,000 people, according to a police estimate, marched down Barcelona's central Gracia thoroughfare waving Spanish and Catalan flags and chanting “that's enough” and “the streets belong to everyone” to counter the separatist claim that “the streets will always be ours.”

Xavier Dalamantes, a 40-year-old working in the pharmaceutical industry who attended Sunday's rally with a Spanish flag draped over his shoulders, told AFP that the time had come “to get out there and say what one thinks — they (the separatists) are trying to turn Catalonia into a totalitarian state.”

Sunday's protest coincides with the two-year anniversary of the Catalan parliament's abortive declaration of independence that triggered Spain's worst political crisis in decades, with Madrid suspending the region's autonomy, sacking its government and prosecuting its leaders.

Following a high-profile trial, the Supreme Court jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders on October 14th, triggering a wave of unrest that has left the region gripped by “a climate of fear which we have not seen in Barcelona or in Spain in decades,” Costa said.    

“It's important to go back out and say: that's enough violence and confrontation.”

Since the failed independence bid of 2017, most people had realised that the possibility of separation was unrealistic, he said.    

“No one in Catalonia believes anymore that the possibility of independence exists. The majority of the separatist camp accepts that we have to enter a new stage and that the unilateral path (to independence) is not possible.”

End 'politics of confrontation'

But current regional president Quim Torra and his predecessor Carles Puigdemont were “determined to maintain the confrontation and tension” whether out of conviction or for electoral reasons, Costa said, warning it was causing a
lot of damage to Catalan society.    

“Don't insist on the politics of confrontation, which is hurting us so much,” he said.

“We must listen to the social majority in Catalonia that opposes independence, whose emotions are also running high.”   

Dialogue was crucial, he said.   

“Let's talk especially within Catalonia, and listen to that Catalan majority which is not separatist and which feels very removed from Catalan institutions.”

Both the Spanish government and the regional authorities in Catalonia needed to do some soul searching with respect to plurality, he said.    

“The path is one of double recognition: that Spain as a nation recognise better its internal plurality… and that in Catalonia, for the first time, the regional government recognise the internal plurality.

“We all have to make an effort to build the Catalonia of the future.”

By AFP's Diego Urdaneta 

 

 

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ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

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