Separatists and unionists gear up for demonstrations on Catalonia Day

Regional premier Artur Mas accuses Madrid of doing nothing to resolve the referendum issue

Miquel Noguer
Barcelona -
Regional premier Artur Mas (second from left) at the opening of the Diada.
Regional premier Artur Mas (second from left) at the opening of the Diada.

The traditional September 11 Catalonia Day celebrations began on Thursday with a firm defense of the November 9 referendum on self-rule aimed at dispelling doubts over a possible cancellation or postponement.

“Right now I will not speak about any scenarios other than November 9,” said regional premier Artur Mas of the CiU coalition, some of whose members have expressed hesitation over the independence vote in recent weeks.

Mas accused Madrid of adopting a do-nothing policy on the Catalan issue. “I see the [central] government as very immobile and lacking political initiative. I’m surprised, because the Catalan question is one of the biggest issues on the Spanish state’s agenda right now,” he said.

The Diada is expected to become a showcase for both supporters and detractors of independence

“The government is refusing to budge, but in order to resolve things it needs to stop saying no to everything. This is not the way to address a major political situation,” he added.

Mas also rejected the possibility of calling early elections in the region, as the Socialist secretary general Pedro Sánchez suggested that he could do if the vote does not take place on November 9 after all.

The central administration of Mariano Rajoy, of the center-right Popular Party, has promised to appeal the Catalan referendum before the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it is illegal to hold a unilateral popular vote that does not allow all Spaniards to express their opinion.

Some Catalan officials have suggested that if the court’s ruling is unfavorable, the vote could be postponed. But pro-independence parties are calling for civil disobedience if this is the case.

The Diada, as Catalans call their regional day, is expected to become a showcase for both supporters and detractors of independence, with street demonstrations by both sides.

Last year, pro-independence organizations set up a human chain that stretched across the Catalan coastline to draw attention to their demands. This year, the same groups — Asamblea Nacional Catalana and Òmnium Cultural — are planning a demonstration on the major Barcelona arteries of Gran Vía and Diagonal, which seen from a bird’s eye-view will form a giant “V” representing the words “votar” (vote), “voluntad” (will) and “victoria” (victory).

Meanwhile, unionists are also planning a demonstration in Tarragona, where they will wave a giant Catalan flag meant as a repudiation of the “estelada,” an unofficial flag with a lone star used by separatists to represent the Països Catalans, or the traditional territories where Catalan is spoken.

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