Tens of thousands of people took to streets in Barcelona Sunday demanding an independent government in Spain's Catalonia region which would set the region free from the rest of the country.
Per local police estimates, nearly 45,000 people participated in the "Republic Now" march called by one of the most influential pro-Independence groups, Catalan National Assembly, or ANC.
The protesters also held a minute's silence for incarcerated Catalan leaders and chanted pro-Independence slogans like 'Puigdemont is our president,' 'Freedom for political prisoners' and 'We voted for the Republic,' along with the Catalan anthem, 'Els segadors,' which roughly translates to 'The laborers,' according to Catalan News.
"There are more than two million of us citizens of Catalonia who want to go forward now, clearly, towards the Catalan republic," ANC vice president Agusti Alcoberro told reporters.
Carles Puigdemont, who is in a self-imposed exile for the 4th month in Belgium has ruled out his candidacy owing to legal impediments.
The Separatist parties that won an absolute majority of seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament in the Dec 21. snap elections have not been able to form a new government.
Last week, Catalonia's two main separatist parties announced a new referendum for the constitution of the "Catalan republic," the region with nearly 7.5 million people that has been under the direct rule of Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, after he dissolved the Catalan parliament in October, following an independence referendum which Madrid deemed illegitimate.
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"The fact that today, in the 21st century, there are people in prison for their ideas is a disgrace. It’s anti-democratic," Maria Soria, a 56-year-old pediatrician, told the AFP, at Sunday’s march.
Earlier in February, protesters chained themselves to pillars outside a court in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia to protest the imprisonment of pro-independence figures after Catalonia voted for secession with a majority.
That protest was called by the Committees for the Defense of the Republic, a network of local assemblies operating with the aim to protect and uphold the region's declaration of independence.