Photos: Sergi Alcàzar
At least a million people, a peaceful and festive stream from all corners of Catalonia, came together yesterday in Barcelona, to show their support for the Catalan independence referendum on 1 October. The strategy of maximum pressure implemented by the State on the organizers of the referendum has not managed to dampen the clear and overwhelming support on the street and the gigantic cross drawn by the demonstrators where Passeig de Gràcia joins Aragó Street joined together behind the slogan “We will vote”.
“We’ve done it again, we have shown the world how we Catalans claim our rights in an absolutely festive, massive, peaceful way, against the predictions of those who would have us fail”, said Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, who followed the event from Plaça de Catalunya, with the Catalan Speaker, Carme Forcadell. They were accompanied by Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras and other Catalan ministers.
This year, the demonstration came after a very intense week, with the signature of the decree calling the independence referendum, after the Parliament passed the Referendum Bill and the Transition Bill, in the midst of protests from the opposition. But above all, the Diada (the Catalan National Day) was preceded by the Spanish Guardia Civil’s actions to try to find the ballots for the independence referendum and entering the premises of the weekly publication, El Vallenc. The demonstration was to be the proof of the effect of the warnings and threats by the State on the citizens.
“What more must we do for them to understand that Catalonia wants to vote?” asked President Puigdemont, after insisting that the State can still negotiate.
The President made this statement at the end of the event. Chairman of ANC (Catalan National Assembly NGO) Jordi Sanchez had just warned all those present at the demonstration that they would have to become “rebellious against those tribunal and those laws whose only aim is to preserve the indivisible unity of their fatherland”. Mr Sanche warned the demonstrators that their role was “crucial”, that if each one of them undertook to vote in the ballot, the “victory of democracy would be overwhelming”.
“We will stand tall as long as needs be” ensured Chairman of Omnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart,who highlighted that Catalonia was at a histoic crossroads: either democracy or oppression”. “We have never been afraid –he said-, that is why we will vote on 1 October”.
Neus Lloveras, Chairwoman of the AMI (Association of Municipalities for Independence) pointed out that over 700 town councils have committed to facilitate the referendum, even if they have tried to frighten them “by air, land or sea”. At a moment when one of the main questions is how Barcelona Town council intends to behave regarding the referendum, Ms Lloveras called on the mayors who do not wish to provide premises for the vote to “listen to the people”. Among the people in the demonstration were Barcelona deputy mayors Gerardo Pisarello and Jaume Asens.
“I do not know what will happen on 1 October, I do not know whether the outcome will be a “yes” win or a “no”, but whoever wins, the people of Catalonia will have won in as far as they will have voted and they will have decided their future” said Catalan Speaker Carme Forcadell, on closing the event.
A Minute’s silence
Passeig de Gràcia had been a hive of people with “estalades” and yellow t-shirts on Monday morning, many of whom had arrived on hundreds of coaches parked on the roads transversal to the demonstration. The event itself began as usual at 5pm. An impressive minute’s silence was held, where only the sound of the helicopters above could be heard.
Immediately afterwards, the “Amics del Arts” choir sang Els camps de Luisiana with the Orfeó Català choir. At exactly 17.14 hrs. four giant canvasses started their route along the four stems of the cross made up by the demonstrators. At the centre of the cross, a canvass with the drawing of a ballot box flanked by two massive “yes” and facing an estelada. As the canvasses progressed, the demonstrators were to change into this year’s yellow t-shirts.
Sax player, Pep Poblet, performed Que tinguem sort by Lluís Llach and the group Elèctrica Dharma got the crowed jumping up and down with their anthem, while Josep Maria Mainat sang his version of Passi-ho bé i moltes gràcies, before the even closed with the performance of Els Segadors, the Catalan national anthem.