18:34 GMT +318 September 2018
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    People hold Catalan separatist flags known as Esteladas during a gathering to mark the Catalonia day Diada in central Barcelona, Spain, September 11, 2016.

    One Million Catalans Call for Republic's Creation at Barcelona Rally

    © REUTERS / Albert Gea
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    BARCELONA (Sputnik) – About one million people have taken to the central streets of the city of Barcelona on Catalonia’s National Day (Diada) with the calls to "create the Catalan republic," the city’s Civil Guard said Wednesday.

    'Troops' of Spanish King Enter Generalitat

    National Day is celebrated annually in Catalonia in honor of events that transpired three centuries ago. The paradox is that September 11 is not the anniversary of any victory, but the date of the defeat. The last battle of the War of the Spanish Succession officially ended on September 11, 1714, with the victory of Philip V of Spain and Catalonia’s subsequent loss of its autonomy. A national day was established in 1980 by regional authorities and has been celebrated since then.

    A reconstruction of these historical events could be observed in the central square, where the buildings of the Generalitat and City Hall of Barcelona are located. The "troops" of King Philip V visited the mayor’s office and then, with thundering applause from the crowd gathered in the square, went to the Generalitat.

    A sign with the inscription reading "Free Political Prisoners and Exiles" in the Catalan and English languages was put on the balcony of the Generalitat, demanding that Catalan politicians, who were involved in the independence referendum on last year, be freed. Criminal cases initiated against them include charges of organizing an insurrection, insurgency and embezzlement of state funds.

    Sad Day

    The centrist Citizens party, having the largest faction in the Catalan parliament, which supported the territorial integrity of Spain, held their own event at around the same time. Its leaders, Albert Rivera and Ines Arrimadas, were met by a small crowd, with clearly different political preferences. On the King’s Square, the leaders of the movement for the preservation of Spain’s unity were greeted with applause from some people and whistling from others. As a result, party volunteers did not allow anyone to come to the square, and a chain of people was built around it for security reasons.

    Arrimadas said from the podium that, despite the position of the current Catalan leadership, "today’s Diada is a Diada for all Catalans, not half of Catalans." Rivera promised "to protect the interests of all Catalans" and argued that he would "like to celebrate Diada together, [but] the Catalan government prevented this."

    "Today is a sad day, but I promise that the time will come when we will celebrate it together," Rivera said.

    At the same time, the youth far-left Arran organization protested in the same Gothic quarter. Although it gathered no more than a couple hundred people for the rally, it caused quite a fuss. The rally was held under the slogan "Independence, Socialism, Feminism," with people holding red banners with the hammer and sickle, and red Esteladas, the unofficial flag of Catalan independence supporters.

    People Need to Know When to be Quiet

    The main event took place at exactly 5:14 p.m. local time on Tuesday (19:14 GMT) on Diagonal street. It was organized by the Catalan National Assembly public organization, whose former leader, Jordi Sanchez, is in pre-trial detention in connection with last year’s independence referendum, along with eight other Catalan politicians.

    The diagonal street was filled with people half an hour before the beginning of the rally. Most of them were dressed in pink T-shirts with the slogan "Let’s create the Catalan republic," which could have been purchased in advance in souvenir shops or at the assembly’s website. However, the clothes of the protesters were quite diverse; many people came in T-shirts from previous rallies. Every Diada, organizers release new T-shirts designs, depending on the events that are taking place in the autonomous community.

    "I have been coming to Diada since 2010. My son was six months old then," one of the participants of the rally said, pointing to the boy standing next to her.

    "Maybe not in a year or two, but [the Catalan Republic] will become a reality, we will create a republic," the woman who came from Reus, Tarragona, said.

    Five senior citizens came from the small town of Riudoms, which is in Tarragona province, where only 6,000 people live. They arrived by bus. Six buses in total were sent from there, however, as they said, many came to Barcelona by car.

    "Here is our flag, the name of our village is written there," they said, showing a large Estelada.

    People came to Barcelona not only by buses and cars, but tractors were also parked along the whole street. The tractor drivers, who took an active part in last year’s protests, traveled to celebrate Diada from different locations.

    Traditional Catalan gigantic figures rose above the crowd, as well as human pyramids.

    Yellow ribbons, a symbol of the struggle for the liberation of Catalan politicians, whom the protesters called "political prisoners," were hung in the street. Portraits of the arrestees could be found all along the street.

    According to the organizer's plan, a moment of silence was observed at 5:14 p.m., was followed by a signal of a rocket, promoting the crowd to cry out a wave of sound meant to topple the symbolic wall set on the stage. However, a couple of times, the crowd began to shout ahead of schedule, and the organizers persuaded people to keep quiet. As a result, the cry finally reached the stage, the wall was destroyed and the crowd exploded, chanting "Independence."

    The word "Independence" was shouted on Tuesday not only on Diagonal street. A group of young people stepped out onto one of the central streets, chanting not only the slogans of independence, but also not very politically correct statements about Spain; they sang the famous "Que Viva Espana" song by Manolo Escobar in their own way, replacing some lyrics with swear words. Tourists filmed this, and taxi drivers were forced to search for detours.

    "The roads are blocked every now and then, we have to drop passengers off. It’s hard to earn money. This summer I earned way less than I did last year … I’m not interested in politics, I’m much more concerned how to feed my family," one of the taxi drivers told Sputnik.

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    Catalonia referendum, Spanish media, national day, crowd, troops, independence, Barcelona, Spain
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