A sea of demonstrators draped in blue, red and yellow swarmed Catalonia Sunday, to spur momentum for the independence movement vying for secession from Spain.
“I have honestly never seen so many hammer (and) sickles in my life,” Roshak Momtahen, an economics graduate student living in Barcelona who was present at the rallies there, told teleSUR.
Socialist graffiti at the demonstration. | Photo: Roshak Momtahen
Indeed, nearly 600,000 people who turned out for the rally supporting a legally-binding referendum for Catalonia's independence. So far, only the far-left Podemos party supports such a referendum.
“There was a clear connection between independence, feminism, and socialism,” Momtahen said, adding that during the main march of the day, one could witness the entire spectrum of pro-independence movements. “(There were) red stars alongside liberals holding signs proclaiming Catalonia as the 'new state of the EU.'”
Graffiti at the demonstrations. | Photo: Roshak Momtahen
There were many socialists and feminists present. | Photo: Roshak Momtahen
Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan separatist movement, has said that he has plans to propose the referendum next year. Many in attendance Sunday, however, said they have lost confidence in a referendum, and are already exploring other options.
“Here that’s not going to happen one way or another, so we’re going to just declare independence, and that’s it,” Montse Pedra, a speech therapist at the rally in Barcelona told The Guardian, referring to a similar referendum for independence that took place in Scotland in 2014.
Momtahen also observed that independence for many is a given matter. “It felt like people view independence as a foregone conclusion. It's just a matter of political and legal technicalities to make it happen,” he said.
The event coincided with Catalonia’s national day, La Diada, which marks the loss of Catalan autonomy after the conquest of Barcelona by Spain's King Philip V in 1714. While many have been vying for independence for a long time, the recent surge in the movement is due to the disillusionment many felt in the late 1970s under Francisco Franco, whose authoritarian rule suppressed Catalan nationalism. More recently, the separatist movement in the region erupted in 2012 during a deepening economic crisis. The region has its own distinct language and culture.
In a time of current national discord where two inconclusive general elections have left Spain without a new government for more than eight months, much of this disarray in national politics is due in part to disagreements over Catalonia separatism.
Under the conservative acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is strongly opposed to secession, the stand-off has escalated dramatically in recent months.
“It will (definitely) be interesting to see this dynamic play out in the coming months and years,” concluded Momtahen.