Rally re­jects Cata­lan se­ces­sion bid

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - FRONT PAGE - The as­sO­ci­ated press

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Cata­lans took to the streets of Barcelona on Sun­day to voice their op­po­si­tion to the re­gion’s dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence amid vast po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty for the re­gion in north­east Spain.

Cat­alo­nia’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship was fired Satur­day by cen­tral au­thor­i­ties in Madrid who are try­ing to tame the worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis Spain has seen in decades. So far, Cata­lan’s for­mer leader has in­sin­u­ated that he won’t step down.

Wav­ing Span­ish, Cata­lan and Euro­pean Union flags, the pro­test­ers de­scribed them­selves as the silent ma­jor­ity who have been ig­nored during the wealthy re­gion’s bid for in­de­pen­dence, which came to a head Fri­day when the re­gional par­lia­ment voted to se­cede from Spain.

“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,’’ said Alex Ramos, head of Cata­lan Civil So­ci­ety, a pro-union grass­roots group.

The or­ga­niz­ers said more than one mil­lion peo­ple turned out but po­lice put the fig­ure at 300,000. There was no way to im­me­di­ately rec­on­cile the fig­ures.

The mood at Sun­day’s rally was fes­tive. “We won’t let Spain be torn apart into pieces,’’ read one ban­ner. “The awak­en­ing of a si­lenced na­tion,’’ read an­other.

In re­sponse to the law­mak­ers’ se­ces­sion­ist vote, Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy trig­gered un­prece­dented con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers, fir­ing Cat­alo­nia’s se­ces­sion­ist re­gional gov­ern­ment and call­ing an early re­gional elec­tion for Dec. 21.

Mon­day will be the first work­ing day since the re­gion de­clared in­de­pen­dence and its lead­er­ship was fired. It was not known how Cat­alo­nia’s es­ti­mated 200,000 pub­lic work­ers would re­act to their bosses’ dis­missal.

Ousted re­gional leader Car­les Puigde­mont has called for Cata­lans to en­gage in peace­ful op­po­si­tion to Spain’s takeover of re­gional af­fairs, say­ing he and his fired cab­i­net would keep “work­ing to build a free coun­try.’’

Puigde­mont and his min­is­ters could face prison for their sep­a­ratist ac­tions. Spain’s gov­ern­ment has said the ousted Cata­lan lead­ers could be charged with usurp­ing oth­ers’ func­tions if they refuse to com­ply with their fir­ing.

LLUIS GENE/Afp/GEtty Im­AGES

a pro­tester holds a sign read­ing “be­ing Cata­lan is a pride, be­ing span­ish is an hon­our” during the pro-unity demon­stra­tion on sun­day.

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