Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My Impressions of the September 11 Independence March in Barcelona (Catalonia)

Every year on September 11 – the National Day of Catalonia – people take to the streets of Barcelona to demand independence from Spain, but this year the demonstration was bigger than ever. The organizers claim that there were as many as 2 million participants, but while the Spanish police reduce that number to 600.000, reputable news services as BBC find reason to quote the Catalan police and talk about 1,5 million people.

Today, some commentators have underlined that not everyone who joined the manifestation do in fact demand full sovereignty from Spain. That might be true, but on the other hand the main slogan was absolutely clear this time – “Catalonia – a new European state” – and the estelades – the battle flag for Catalan independentistes – and people shouting independència totally dominated the scene.

What is also clear is that the main street, passeig de Gràcia, was so crowded that the march could start to move only after a few hours, when enough people had left for the many side streets. That is also where I personally, in the self-imposed role as an “international” observer, spent most of the time, fascinated by the festive and absolutely peaceful atmosphere. Through El Mundo I have learnt that one group of demonstrators burnt Spanish and French flags, but I did not see anything similar. No hostilities, no violence but - on the contrary – loads of families with smiling children, among whom I recognized many friends and acquaintances from my Catalan town, Vilanova i la Geltrú.

Whether Catalonia will one day be independent remains to see, so I feel privileged to live here and be able to follow the development as it happens. Yesterday’s demonstration will, without doubt, force politicians of all colours to be more specific about their future visions for the Catalan society. And the argument which representatives from the political parties PP and Ciudadanos love to repeat – that there is a silent majority against independence – sounds more and more hollow.

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Here are my photos of la Diada Nacional de Catalunya, starting at the train station of Vilanova i la Geltrú, reaching the Pau Claris exit of the station passeig de Gràcia, followed by stops at passeig de Gràcia, Urquinaona, Via Laietana, Ciutadella and Estació de França.

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Before the demonstration officially started at 18:00, I had the pleasure of taking the position as primer lateral in a human pillar of four levels, which members of Falcons de Barcelona and Falcons de Vilanova improvised in passseig de Gràcia. In all honesty we managed only on the second attempt, but I will not say anything: I – if anyone – know what if feels like when you fail with one of these constructions…

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The morning of September 11, I had spent building human towers with Bordegassos de Vilanova in our small neighbour town Cubelles. Even there the hoisting of the Catalan flag – la Senyera – on the church bell tower resulted in shouts for independence.


Tom said...

Nice pics! We had a good time too. Do you think independence is inevitable now?

Erik Wirdheim said...

Thanks Tom!

Inevitable? Tough question! If reactions from Spanish nationalist media continue to be marked by condemnation and lack of respect for Catalonia - what we have seen during the last 48 hours - then we will, of course, see more and more 'independentistes'.

Whether these people will in the end dare to vote Yes! to full sovereignty is a more complicated question and will depend a lot on the support Catalonia gets from the international community, not the least from other small democratic countries like my native Sweden.

What do you think? (Feel free to answer with a link in case you have already written about it.)


Tom said...

I'm not sure. It certainly feels more inevitable. Lots of people I talk to seem to see it as inevitable. For me, the question is whether Rajoy will negotiate a fiscal pact. If he does, all bets are off. But I don't think he will.

And yes, I set up a poll on my blog to gauge my readers' opinions. Not many of them, unfortunately.

Also some interesting comments on my brief summary of the march (and one pic I took):