Thousands rally for Catalan independence from Spain

Tens of thousands of Catalans rallied on Sunday to demand their region break away from Spain. The rally was scheduled to coincide with Catalonia's national day 'La Diada.'

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

People wave "Estaladas" (pro-independence Catalan flags) as they gather during a pro-independence demonstration, on September 11, 2016, in Barcelona during the National Day of Catalonia, "La Diada."

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Barcelona and four other cities across Catalonia on Sunday to show their support for Catalan independence from Spain, which separatist leaders want to deliver next year despite legal blocks by Spain's central government.

People waved yellow banners in time to music, symbolising the rhythm of a beating heart uniting an independent republic.

The rallies were scheduled to coincide with Catalonia’s national day, "La Diada."

La Diada marks the conquest of Barcelona by Spain’s King Philip V in 1714, after a 13-month siege and the loss of Catalan autonomy.

Since 2012, major demonstrations in favour of independence have been held in Catalonia every year on September 11. However, the head of the regional government of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, said this year’s Diada is crucial.

"Critical decisions" regarding Catalonia's future will have to be taken in the coming months," he said in a press conference.

President of the Catalan regional Government Carles Puigdemont sings the official national anthem during a ceremony at the Rafael de Casanovas monument in Barcelona on September 11, 2016. (AFP)

Catalan separatists have tried in vain for years to win approval from Spain's central government to hold an independence referendum like the one held in 2014 in Scotland.

After winning a clear majority in Catalonia's regional parliament last year, secessionist parties approved a plan to achieve independence in 2017.

However, the plan ran into trouble in June after Puigdemont's coalition government lost the support of the tiny anti-capitalist party CUP which has a hard line on independence.

As a result, it lost its clear majority in the assembly. 

Puigdemont faces a vote of confidence on September 28. The CUP is willing to back his government again, most likely if he agrees to call an independence referendum in 2017.

People hold Catalan separatist flags known as "Esteladas" during a gathering to mark the Catalonia day "Diada" in central Barcelona, Spain, September 11, 2016. (Reuters)

The pro-independence camp hopes Sunday's mass rallies will reunite and breathe new life into their campaign, which is moving along more slowly than many of its supporters would like.

Catalans have nurtured a separate identity for centuries, but an independence movement surged recently as many became disillusioned with limitations on the autonomy they gained in the late 1970s after the end of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, which had suppressed Catalan nationalism.

TRTWorld and agencies