With referendum looming, thousands take to streets for Catalan National Day

Despite tense political climate ahead of illegal referendum, attendance at La Diada march down from previous years

Thousands of people in the streets of Barcelona on Monday.
Thousands of people in the streets of Barcelona on Monday.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI (EL PAÍS)

The celebration on Monday of La Diada, considered the “national day” of Catalonia, was dominated by the pro-independence movement, which, as in previous years, took to the streets in support of a planned referendum on the future of the northeastern Spanish region on October 1, and secession from Spain.

The public holiday, celebrated in the region on September 11, has attracted large pro-independence marches in previous years, but this year took place in the wake of last week’s fast-track push of legislation through the regional parliament that paves the way for the October 1 vote.

There was a variety of slogans calling for the referendum to be held

The conservative Popular Party (PP) central government in Madrid, however, is fiercely opposed to such a poll as well as independence for Catalonia, and has set into motion legal measures to prevent it from taking place. For its part, the country’s Constitutional Court has already suspended the vote, while local mayors are being called upon to refuse to provide public spaces to be used as polling booths.

According to the organizers of the march, the National Catalan Assembly (ANC), there were more than a million people on the streets of Barcelona on Monday. Calculations made by EL PAÍS, however, put the number closer to half a million, while the central government’s delegation in Catalonia put the figure at 350,000.

Despite the political climate, the number of attendees was down from previous years, such as 2015 for example, when the local police force estimated that 1.4 million people took to the streets.

The central government in Madrid is fiercely opposed to such a poll

Apart from members of the public, the regional premier Carles Puigdemont was present, accompanied by practically all members of his Cabinet, as well as the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, and all of the pro-independence leaders in the Catalan parliament and in Spain’s national Congress.

The march passed without incident, and with a variety of different slogans on show calling for the referendum to be held, as well as criticizing the central government in Madrid. The beginning of the event was marked by a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the recent terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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