Hun­dreds of thou­sands rally in Barcelona for Span­ish unity

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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 said 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 joined to­gether un­der the slo­gan “We are all Cat­alo­nia. Com­mon sense for co­ex­is­tence,” AP re­ported.

Rally or­ga­niz­ers So­ci­etat Civil Cata­lana, the lead­ing pro-union grass­roots group, said that over one 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.”

“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 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.

The top politi­cians for pro-union par­ties wanted to use Sun­day’s rally as a launch­pad for the crit­i­cal elec­tions in just over six weeks.

The Cata­lan par­lia­ment’s vote to se­cede came af­ter an il­le­gal Oct. 1 ref­er­en­dum in Cat­alo­nia in fa­vor of in­de­pen­dence. Spain’s con­sti­tu­tional court had out­lawed the vote, and lo­cal op­po­nents to se­ces­sion had boy­cotted the process af­ter sep­a­ratists vi­o­lated par­lia­ment rules to push through its con­vo­ca­tion.

AFP

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