BARCELONA: Around one million Catalans rallied in Barcelona, banging drums and blowing whistles in a show of support for independence nearly a year after a failed attempt to break away from Spain.
Wearing coral-red T-shirts and waving the red, yellow and blue Catalan separatist flag, a sea of protesters gathered for the rally on Catalonia’s “national day” which commemorates Barcelona’s fall to troops loyal to Spain’s King Philip V in 1714.
The annual “Diada” holiday has since 2012 been used to stage a massive rally calling for secession for the wealthy northeastern region with its own distinct language.
But this year’s event had particular significance as a test of strength after a referendum last October 1, and the Catalan parliament’s unilateral declaration of independence on October 27, all came to naught.
Demonstrators climbed on each others shoulders to form human towers, a Catalan tradition, while others carried yellow and black signs that read “Free Catalan political prisoners now”, a reference to Catalan separatist leaders in jail awaiting trial over last year’s independence bid.
“I am outraged…the political prisoners have to be released now!, said Santi Noe, 54, who came to the rally from his farm in El Maresme near Barcelona on his green tractor, one of dozens of tractors at the event.
City police said on Twitter that around one million people took part, a similar amount to last year’s protest.
Organisers said they had sold over 200,000 coral-red T-shirts — the colour used in the ties used to secure the ballot boxes during last year’s contested referendum.
At the start of the rally demonstrators knocked down a symbolic wall decorated with separatist symbols, a metaphor for the power of the people to overcome obstacles and achieve independence.