Mass demonstration in Barcelona in favor of Catalunya staying in Spain
A week after the controversial separatist referendum in Catalonia - considered illegal by the Spanish government - thousands of anti-independence citizens demonstrated in Barcelona this Sunday in favor of union with Spain.
"The others"; this is how the Catalan separatists often call their non-independence citizens, or those who simply criticize the decision of the current Catalan government to go through with a sovereign referendum that the Spanish justice had declared unconstitutional.
The celebration of the plebiscite, last Sunday, ended with the violent irruption of the national police in different polling stations, causing more than 700 wounded.
The brutality of the Spanish police provoked massive independence mobilizations throughout the week, but didn’t prevent that "the others" - all those who are not in favor of independence or confrontation - took to the streets of Barcelona this weekend.
Spurred by civic platforms and by the Popular Party itself - the ruling party in the state government - thousands of citizens equipped with Spanish and Catalan flags demonstrated in the center of Barcelona in favor of the union of Spain and against a possible unilateral declaration of independence (DUI) on the part of the Generalitat, the Catalan government.
"I had never had the need to take the streets with the Spanish flag. But the situation has reached the limit," said a young man from Salou, a coastal town south of Barcelona, who waved a giant Spanish flag with his friends. Most of the demonstrators who occupied the streets of Barcelona yesterday were from Barcelona or from other parts of Catalonia.
"The trains were crowded. We had to let a train pass because we could not fit in," said an older couple from Sabadell, an industrial city about 20 miles north of Barcelona. They came without flags. "Visca Catalunya, and Viva España," they chanted.
A little later, a group of young people from Barcelona had fun taking photos next to a banner reading "I refuse to eat pa amb tomàquet without ham." The pà amb tomàquet - bread with tomato - is a typical Catalan dish, which is usually accompanied by Iberian ham, a typical Spanish product. "We are from here, we are Catalans, but we also feel Spanish," they explain.
The demonstration took place in a quiet and family atmosphere, despite the fear of violent incidents. Although most of the protesters were Catalans, busloads of people from other parts of Spain also arrived. "We have come to defend the Spanish Constitution, to defend the union of our country," said a woman who had arrived from Valencia that morning in a coach rented by the Popular Party.
Coaches also arrived from Madrid, and at the airport of Barcelona in the late afternoon, demonstrators with flags and Spanish paraphernalia could be seen about to take the plane back home.
One of the most chanted slogans at the rally was "Puigdemont, resignation". The protesters demanded the resignation of Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia, for having carried out a referendum that Madrid considers unconstitutional.
There were also boos to the Mossos, the Catalan regional police, who refused to participate in the police charge during the day of the referendum.
The images of the brutality of the Spanish police against the voters who protected the polling stations went around the world thanks to the wide presence of international media covering the Catalan crisis.
Last week, the Spanish national police has been the victim of constant boos and slavering by the Catalan population, separatists or non-separatists. In fact, much of Catalan society has protested the widespread deployment of national police and Guardia Civil ordered by the central government in Catalonia. Police harassment began a week before the plebiscite, looking to confiscate ballot boxes, conduct searches and trying to stop the referendum at all costs.
Although the vote was held without legal guarantees nor the required formality - the police came to confiscate several urns full of ballots - the Catalan government has given valid results: 42% of citizen participation, the "yes" won by 90 %.
The next step, according to a law of impermanence approved by the Catalan parliament, -and declared unconstitutional by the Spanish government - is that once announced the official results of the referendum, the Catalan president has 48 hours to announce the unilateral declaration of independence (DUI), something that could happen as early as this Tuesday, when Puigdemont is scheduled to appear before the Parliament.
Financial markets have already indicated that a DUI would have very negative consequences: only last week, the Spanish stock market collapsed, with Catalan banks leading the losses. The main banking institutions in the country - La Caixa and Banco Sabadell - have announced their moving from Barcelona to the Valencian community to curb stock bleeding and to keep their investors calmed.
Other large companies such as Gas Natural and Agbar have done the same. Several experts and business leaders, including the president of the Economics Circle, warn that the worst is yet to come if the DUI is proclaimed.
Meanwhile, the pro-independence people are trying to calm their followers, assuring that the companies "are not going away" or resorting to populist promises. Independence mayors such as Cabrera de Mar, a municipality of 3,000 inhabitants in the vicinity of Barcelona, said in its Facebook that "with equal independence we will be poor for a few months, but then we will be better."
For many Catalans, anxiety, weariness and fear are in the air. Caught between the independentistas and the españolistas there is an increasingly large group of citizens that is getting tired of flags and is asking for a dialogue.
They demand that the leaders of the central and Catalan governments sit down to negotiate, or resign at once. "We speak? Parlem?" Was the slogan of the demonstration called on Saturday throughout Spain to demand a dialogue.
They agreed on wearing white without flags. In Barcelona, it gathered a thousand people in the center of the city. In Madrid, there were many more. "Kiss each other!" Someone shouted with irony.
It is the voice of those who want peace and tranquility. Of those who want Catalunya integrated in Spain; of those who firmly believe that a political solution can be found for the Catalan demands - more fiscal autonomy – without going through self-determination.