Pro-Spain Cata­lans march as se­ces­sion cri­sis sim­mers

On Span­ish na­tional day, some in re­gion re­buke sep­a­ratists.

Dayton Daily News - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Ciaran Giles and Aritz Parra

Thou­sands of Cata­lans MADRID — who want their re­gion to re­main in Spain marked the coun­try’s na­tional day Thurs­day, march­ing through Barcelona wav­ing both Span­ish and Cata­lan flags and shout­ing “I am Span­ish,” as the re­gion’s threats of in­de­pen­dence have left the coun­try in cri­sis.

Mean­while, in the na­tional cap­i­tal Madrid, troops and po­lice pa­raded in front of King Felipe VI, ac­com­pa­nied by na­tional and re­gional politi­cians. Thou­sands of peo­ple wav­ing Span­ish flags lined the side­walk of Madrid’s Paseo de la Castel­lana av­enue for the mil­i­tary pa­rade.

The pi­lot of a fighter jet tak­ing part in the Madrid pa­rade died when the plane crashed while land­ing at a base in Al­bacete, some 200 miles south­east of the Span­ish cap­i­tal, au­thor­i­ties said.

In Barcelona, Cat­alo­nia’s cap­i­tal, a crowd of peo­ple that lo­cal po­lice said num­bered 65,000 marched to a cen­tral square, some with their faces in the red and yel­low colors of both the Span­ish and Cata­lan flags and shout­ing “Viva Es­paña” — “Long live Spain.”

“We are now feel­ing that years of threats by sep­a­ratists have turned into an at­tempt to nor­mal­ize so­cial di­vi­sion,” said Juan Jose Garde, a 63-year-old re­tired civil ser­vant who was join­ing a na­tional day march for the first time af­ter years of en­joy­ing the hol­i­day by tak­ing his fam­ily to the beach.

For many others, Thurs­day’s march in cen­tral Barcelona was also a first.

Montse Sanchez, a 56-yearold Cata­lan bank clerk, said she only felt the urge to protest when the sep­a­ratists’ bid re­cently be­came “an im­po­si­tion of thought.”

“They want to im­pose on us the ideas of one, but in Cat­alo­nia we are more than one, we are many peo­ple with very dif­fer­ent feel­ings to­ward na­tion­al­ity,” she said.

The slo­gan of the march was “Yes to Cat­alo­nia. Spain, too,” sup­port­ing Cata­lan au­ton­omy, but within Spain as a whole.

Two small groups of pro­test­ers clashed as the union­ists’ demon­stra­tion was get­ting un­der­way, throw­ing chairs and bot­tles taken from a cafe­te­ria ter­race at each other. An of­fi­cer was in­jured when lo­cal po­lice in­ter­vened to sep­a­rate them, Barcelona’s ur­ban guard said.

It was un­clear what sparked the vi­o­lence or who was in­volved, but the main demon­stra­tion led by civil so­ci­ety groups op­pos­ing the sep­a­ratist bid in Cat­alo­nia wasn’t dis­rupted.

A sep­a­rate protest of around 200 sup­port­ers of far-right and Span­ish na­tion­al­ist groups ended at Barcelona’s Mon­tjuic hill with speeches and the burn­ing of an “es­te­lada,” the un­of­fi­cial flag that has be­come a sym­bol for Cata­lan sep­a­ratists.

Cata­lan re­gional Pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont an­nounced Tues­day that he was pro­ceed­ing with a dec­la­ra­tion of Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence, but pro­posed freez­ing its im­ple­men­ta­tion for a few weeks to al­low for di­a­logue and me­di­a­tion with the na­tional gov­ern­ment in Madrid.

Speak­ing in the na­tional par­lia­ment Wed­nes­day, Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy asked Puigde­mont to clar­ify whether or not he had ac­tu­ally de­clared in­de­pen­dence, adding that the Cata­lan leader’s re­sponse would be cru­cial in de­cid­ing “events over the coming days.” He hinted that Spain could take con­trol or par­tial con­trol of Cat­alo­nia un­der an ar­ti­cle of the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tion.

In a tweet later, Puigde­mont re­acted: “We de­mand di­a­logue and the re­sponse is to put ar­ti­cle 155 on the ta­ble. Mes­sage un­der­stood.”

Op­po­si­tion So­cial­ist leader Pe­dro Sanchez, who is back­ing Ra­joy’s gov­ern­ment in its re­sponse to the sep­a­ratist’s de­fi­ance, said Thurs­day that the cri­sis “has so­lu­tion and there is hope.”

“We want di­a­logue, di­a­logue about how Cat­alo­nia re­mains in Spain and not about how it leaves Spain,” Sanchez said.

SANTI PALACIOS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A woman waves flags of Cat­alo­nia and Spain dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion in Barcelona of Spain’s na­tional day Thurs­day. About 65,000 peo­ple marched to a cen­tral square in the Cata­lan cap­i­tal shout­ing “Long live Spain.”

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