“We are all Catalonia!” That was the slogan chosen by the Societat Civil Catalana association for a demonstration that took place today in Barcelona in favor of the unity of Spain. The march, in which more than a million people took part according to organizers – 300,000 according to the municipal police force – counted on the support of center-left party Ciudadanos, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the conservative Popular Party (PP), and ended with speeches from the former Socialist minister Josep Borrell, the former PP Foreign Minister Josep Piqué (by videolink), and Paco Frutos, the former general secretary of the Spanish Communist Party.
“Allow me to use the language of the adversary,” Frutos said. “I am a botifler,” a word used to describe “traitors” to the pro-independence movement in Catalonia. “A traitor against the racism that you are creating. The real botiflers are you, because you are pitting people against one another for no reason and you are doing away with the freedoms of those who don’t think like you.”
The march came two days after pro-secession parties voted in favor of a unilateral declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament, a move that prompted the central government in Madrid to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, allowing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to remove the Catalan premier, Carles Puigdemont, from his position, as well as his ministers. Fresh elections have been called for December 21.
“I am here because our dignity lies in being able to vote for whatever we want,” said Josep Borrell. “Mr Junqueras, you are a complete totalitarian,” he added, in reference to the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) leader and now former deputy premier of the region after being removed from his position. "We will go to vote, but not like vultures who are eating a cadaver, but rather as citizens who know that their vote depends on the future of a country. If there were independence [in Catalonia], many of you would end up out of a job. But that isn’t going to happen thanks to 155,” he added.
Hundreds of thousands of people packed out the Paseo de Gràcia in Barcelona half an hour before the march began. The attendees waved Spanish flags and cried “We will vote,” “Spain, united, will never be defeated,” and “Puigdemont, to prison.”
Other slogans included “155. The party is over,” and “More bridges and fewer walls.”
Among the politicians heading up the march were the health minister, Dolors Montserrat, the head of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, and the party’s leader in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas.
Along the route there were also Catalan and European flags, with attendees chanting “Long live Spain,” “Long live Catalonia,” and “TV3 – Manipulator,” a reference to the public television broadcaster in the region.
Rivera stated that Catalans who defended democratic laws, coexistence and the union with the rest of Spaniards and Europe “are not just going to fill the streets,” but also “the ballot boxes” on December 21. “We are going to go out to win,” added Inés Arrimadas.
The central government delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, stated that the December 21 polls are a “great opportunity for everyone to voice their opinion freely and democratically,” and return self-governance to the regional institutions and all Catalans.
English version by Simon Hunter.