News ID: 203360
Published: 0407 GMT October 29, 2017

Hundreds of thousands rally in Barcelona for Spanish unity

Hundreds of thousands rally in Barcelona for Spanish unity

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.

Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont issued a televised message Saturday saying that he and other regional officials fired by Madrid would keep "working to build a free country." His comments were a veiled refusal to accept his Cabinet's dismissal as ordered by central authorities.

Following their official dismissal, Puigdemont and the 12 members who until Saturday made up the Catalan cabinet are no longer paid.



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