On Monday, over one million Catalans rallied in Barcelona waving red and yellow striped flags and banging drums, in a show of support for independence after Madrid moved to block a referendum on the region’s split from Spain.
According to them, September 11 marks the ‘Diada’, Catalonia’s national day, which commemorates the fall of Barcelona to Spain in 1714 and is traditionally used by pro-independence activists to call for secession for the northeastern region with a distinct language.
However, this year’s event had particular significance as a show of strength for the independence movement just three weeks ahead of a referendum on the issue which Madrid has declared illegal and taken steps to obstruct in the courts.
Demonstrators climbed on each others’ shoulders to form human towers, a Catalan tradition, while others carried banners reading ‘We’re going to be a free country!’ and ‘Full of hope’ while wearing fluorescent yellow t-shirts with the word ‘yes’.
Protesters said they hoped the vote would go ahead as planned on October 1, 2017. The head of Catalonia’s regional government, Carles Puigdemont, told journalists on Monday: “It’s not an option that the referendum won’t go ahead. It’s 20 days away and we’ve already overcome many hurdles.”