Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the center of Barcelona on Sunday to protest against the pro-independence movement and demand the continued unity of Spain and the preservation of the Spanish Constitution. Under the slogan “Let’s get back to common sense,” the march, which was called by the Societat Civil Catalana (SCC) association, ran from the Urquinaoana square until the Pla de Palau and Francia station. The march, which went by without incident, ended with emotional speeches by Mario Vargas Llosa and Josep Borrell, among others.
The manifesto read by the association at the end of the march called for the end of the “marginalization” of non-nationalist Catalans as well as the “confrontation, “confusion” and “pain” that, they said, the population was suffering due to the October 1 illegal referendum on independence. “No political player should ignore that the non-nationalist Catalans form part of the landscape and that we are also Catalan society. Marginalization is over, we have the right to be listened to and to be taken into account,” the manifesto read.
The manifesto read by the association at the end of the march called for the end of the “marginalization” of non-nationalist Catalans
The Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa criticized the “nationalist passion,” calling regional premier and deputy Carles Puigdemont and Oriol Junqueras “members of a coup d’etat,” along with the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell. He went on to say that the “independence plot” would not destroy 500 years of history” of the unity of Spain nor would it turn it into a “third-world country.”
Waving Spanish flags, the protestors occupied the center of the city. Leading figures from the governing Popular Party, such as the regional premier, Cristina Cifuentes, and the health minister, Dolors Montserrat, were present, as was Ciudadanos leader, Albert Rivera. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which has never backed Societat Civil marches, called for people to turn out without formally signing up to the protest.
The vicepresident of SCC, José Domingo, called on the regional premier not to commit the “folly and provocation” of declaring independence and called for a “return to common sense.”
Xavier García Albiol, said that in the last 20 years there had been two historic moments when Spaniards had taken to the street. The first to defend the honor of Miguel Ángel Blanco, a PP councilor killed by ETA, and the second, to defend the unity of Spain. “Piugdemont must know that we’re not going to allow it to happen,” he said, while demonstrators around him chanted: “Puigdemont to prison!”
The march was the largest ever organized by SCC, which is anti-independence and campaigns for better relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.
Estimates of attendance ranges from 350,000 to 950,000 people
The organizers claimed that 950,000 people attended, while the local police put the figure at 350,000. Sources from the National Police in the capital put the figure at a minimum of 400,000 people. The organizers put on buses to bring in demonstrators from other parts of Spain, while many arrived on Saturday night via the AVE high-speed train.
A second march along an alternative route was also held this morning by far-right groups, such as the Falange and the Plataforma per Cataluña. They held a protest outside the Civil Guard headquarters in Travessera de Gràcia.
For its part, SCC issued strict orders for there to be no pre-Constitutional symbols on show during its march.
English version by Simon Hunter.