Protesters stage big anti-independence rally in Catalonia
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona Sunday to protest against Catalonia becoming independent from Spain.
The demonstration came in response to the Catalan parliament voting in favor of independence Friday, after which the Spanish government moved to impose direct rule over the region and called an election there on December 21.
Anti-independence organizers said more than 1 million people participated in the demonstration Sunday, while local police estimated 300,000 people were there, according to Spanish media.
People waving Spanish, EU and regional Catalan flags filled the streets, and some called former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, to “go to prison.”
“If all of these people go to vote on December 21, the independence movement will be history,” Xavier García Albiol, the leader of the Popular Party in Catalonia, told broadcaster La Sexta during the protest.
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Puigdemont on Saturday called for his supporters to peacefully protest against Madrid’s takeover of the regional government.
“It’s very clear that the best way to defend gains made until now is democratic opposition,” he said.
On Friday, thousands of Catalans also celebrated the parliament’s independence declaration, even though the European Union and other major powers swiftly made clear they would not recognize it.
A years-long power struggle between Catalonia’s pro-independence camp and Madrid came to a head on Friday with the parliament’s vote and Madrid’s approval of direct rule following an October 1 independence referendum, which the Spanish constitutional court ruled was illegal. The Spanish government deployed police to try to prevent people from taking part in the plebiscite.
In a statement Saturday, Puigdemont continued to refer to himself as “president of the Catalan government,” even though Madrid has dismissed him from the post and taken over the regional administration.
“We will continue to work to build a free country, to ensure we have a society with less injustice, more equality, more solidarity and more fraternity with all the peoples of the world, starting with the peoples of Spain with whom we want to remain connected through respect and mutual recognition,” Puigdemont said in the statement.
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