Referendum in Catalonia

Podemos and Basque radical left protest Catalonia referendum raids

Pablo Iglesias and Arnaldo Otegi urge people to demonstrate on streets after arrests on Wednesday

Leaders of leftist and nationalist political groups backed a demonstration in Madrid on Wednesday afternoon to protest the raids in Barcelona against organizers of an independence referendum scheduled for October 1 in violation of Spanish constitutional laws.

“Madrid is with the Catalan people” was one of the most popular slogans at the march

The protest was called by a group calling itself “Madrileños for the right to decide,” and attracted hundreds of people – 800 according to the government delegate in Madrid – to the city’s central Puerta del Sol square.

The demonstration had the backing of the leftist protest party Podemos, as well as regional parties such as the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and Compromís, of the Valencia region. The protest took place despite lacking the required permit for public demonstrations.

Hours earlier, two high-profile left-wing politicians had made a public call for people to mobilize against the Barcelona searches, which were ordered by a Barcelona judge as part of an ongoing investigation into disobedience and other crimes in connection with the referendum organization.

“We are headed toward a situation where Spain is going to have political prisoners,” said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias in the hallways of Spanish Congress. “I don’t think it’s a sensible thing for a democratic country to have political prisoners. At this time, we public officials must respond by calling for social harmony, dialogue, sensible attitudes, and by demanding that our democracy not suspend civil rights.”

His words were echoed by Arnaldo Otegi, leader of the Basque far-left EH Bildu group. The streets must be the key stage to denounce the “authoritarian and anti-democratic behavior of the Spanish state,” said Otegi, a key figure of the Basque radical left who has served time on several occasions over pro-ETA activities.

Several leading members of Podemos, ERC, PNV, Compromís and PDdeCAT (the former Convergència, now in power in Catalonia in coalition with ERC as Junts pel Si) joined the Madrid march, as did the head of Spain’s United Left coalition, Alberto Garzón.

Protesters called for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign and chanted in favor of independence, a Catalan republic and freedom of expression.

“Madrid is with the Catalan people” was one of the most popular slogans at the march. A few patrol cars were dispatched to the area to prevent a confrontation between these protesters and a small group of counter-protesters who showed up with Falange flags, a symbol of the Franco era.

Other marches took place in the Basque Country, Galicia and the Valencia region, where nationalist parties all have a significant presence.

English version by Susana Urra.

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