Hundreds of thousands in Barcelona unity rally

China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-30 07:46

Spanish prime minister Rajoy called new poll for December 21

 Hundreds of thousands in Barcelona unity rally

Anti--independence supporters shout slogans and wave Spanish flags as they march against the unilateral declaration of independence approved earlier by the Catalan parliament in downtown Barcelona on Friday.Francisco Seco / Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain - Hundreds of thousands who want Catalonia to remain part of Spain rallied in downtown Barcelona on Sunday, two days after a separatist majority in Catalonia's parliament exacerbated a political crisis by voting for the wealthy region to secede.

Organizers say the march's goal is to defend Spain's unity and reject "an unprecedented attack in the history of democracy". Leaders of rival pro-union parties from the ruling conservatives, the pro-business liberals and the socialists have joined together under the slogan "We are all Catalonia. Common sense for coexistence!"

Rally organizers Societat Civil Catalana, the leading pro-union grassroots group, said that over 1 million people turned out for the march that maintained a festive mood without any incidents reported. Police haven't yet provided a crowd estimate.

Many demonstrators waving Spanish, Catalan and European Union flags flooded a central boulevard. Some held hand-made signs and banners reading "We won't let Spain to be torn apart into pieces" and "The awakening of a silenced nation".

"Catalan leaders have broken the law. The central government has let this situation go for too long, for even 30 or 40 years, thinking that we were never going to arrive to this extreme, but here we are," said Angelita Cuesta, a 66-year-old retiree. "Our society is fractured, there are family members and friends who no longer can talk about politics to avoid conflict."

Hundreds of thousands in Barcelona unity rally

Three weeks ago, the same group organized a mass rally that brought hundreds of thousands onto Barcelona's streets. That was by far the largest pro-union show of force in Catalonia in recent years, in contrast to huge rallies by separatists.

"We have organized ourselves late, but we are here to show that there is a majority of Catalans that are no longer silent and that no longer want to be silenced," Societat Civil Catalana President Alex Ramos said.

Members of Spain's central government, including Health Minister Dolors Montserrat, and Enric Millo, who is Madrid's representative in Catalonia, also attended Sunday's rally. No major pro-independence marches were expected.

Catalonia's separatist leader, who was fired along with his regional government on Saturday, has called for Catalans to engage in peaceful opposition to Spain's crackdown to keep the country together.

The vote by pro-independence lawmakers on Friday in favor of secession, and Madrid's response triggering unprecedented constitutional powers taking control of Catalan affairs, was the climax of Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also dissolved Catalonia's parliament and called a new regional election for Dec 21.

Separatists only won 48 percent of the vote in Catalonia in the last regional election in 2015, although they took more seats because of Spanish election law which gives more weight to sparsely populated areas.

Associated Press

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