17:46 GMT +320 September 2018
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    National Day of Catalonia celebrated in Barcelona

    Thousands of Catalans Gather in Barcelona for Independence Rally on National Day

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    Some 400,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on Catalonia's national day in support of Catalan independence.

    BARCELONA (Sputnik) — Catalonia’s National Day, the Diada, being held in the Spanish autonomous community on Monday less than three weeks before the much-anticipated referendum on independence from Spain, featured a major pro-independence rally in the Catalan capital of Barcelona.


    Thousands of people holding the Estelada, the unofficial flag of Catalan independence supporters, have gathered in downtown Barcelona. For those who have not managed to get a flag in advance, vendors on the street offer to sell large ones for five euros ($5.99) and smaller ones for one euro.

    The rally is organized by the Catalan National Assembly, which had announced that 450,000 people said they wanted to participate in the event. Per the organizers’ plan, at 5:14 p.m. local time (19:14 GMT), all the rally participants are to put on yellow T-shirts, symbolizing this year’s Diada, and flood into the Passeig de Gracia avenue and Carrer d'Arago thoroughfare, which run perpendicular to one another, in order to form a giant "yellow plus sign" which could be seen from the above.

    ​Some 300,000 Diada t-shirts have already been sold for this year’s celebration.

    ​The main events for Diada will be held at Placa de Catalunya, Barcelona’s central square. The rally will be attended by politicians, including Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, members of his cabinet, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, and heads of public organizations. Two Nobel laureates will also be in attendance: Ahmed Galal (member of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet which had received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015) and Argentine writer Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980.


    Spanish politicians have been using the word "theater" when commenting on Catalan parliament's activities last week when the regional legislature was in the process of passing laws on the independence referendum and the subsequent transition period. Specifically, the authority was amending the rules of its own operation, passing laws that contradict not only the position of the Spanish government but also the previous rulings of the nation's Constitutional Court.

    Early on Monday, a real theater performance, one not involving politicians, took place at Placa Sant Jaume, where Catalonia’s local governing body, Generalitat, is located. The play commemorates the fall of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession on September 11, 1714, and the subsequent loss of Catalan liberties, institutions, and laws.


    Both the supporters and the opponents of Catalonia’s independence believe that holding a referendum in necessary. According to recent polls, anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of the autonomous community’s residents support the referendum and believe that Madrid should allow the vote to happen.

    However, even those who plan to vote for Catalonia’s secession from Spain do not believe the Spanish government will recognize the referendum results if a majority should happen to support the independence.

    Some rally participants say that by prohibiting the referendum, Spain's ruling People's Party only strengthens the separatist sentiments among the Catalans.

    During a press conference, Puigdemont said that the referendum will be held on October 1 as planned, because "there is no such force that would prevent the Catalans from voting," adding that local security services will be able to maintain order during the vote.

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who had repeatedly said that no independence referendum would be allowed on October 1, has congratulated the Catalans on their National Day.


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