SOME 6,500 people came out in Barcelona to protest on Thursday morning in support of the independence of Catalonia. The demonstration coincided with a Franco-Spanish summit, in which the Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and President Emmanuel Macron held a bilateral meeting.
The motto of the attendees was ‘Aquí no se acaba nada’, which is a direct response to Sánchez’s recent affirmation that the processas the independence campaign is known, was effectively finished after his government made a series of concessions to the Catalan parties.
But growing divisions between the region’s pro-independence political groups came to the fore again on Thursday, with the president of the ruling Esquerra Republicana Catalana (ERC), Oriol Junqueras, leaving the protest after an hour to boos. whistles and even cries of ‘traitor’ from members of the crowd.
The demonstration was organized by a number of groups, including the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and was supported by the ERC, as well as the hardline Juntos por Catalunya (Junts per Catalunya) and the Popular Unity Candidacy ( CUP). ) party.
Junqueras is among a group of politicians and civic leaders who were tried and jailed for their role in the 2017 independence campaign in the northeastern region, which saw not only an illegal referendum on secession from Spain, but also a unilateral declaration of independence approved. in the local government
However, ERC has recently chosen to adopt a different strategy than Junts and the CUP, based on dialogue with the central government in Madrid rather than pushing more for a unilateral break.
That is why Junqueras, who was released from prison early after receiving a government pardon, was greeted with such hostility at the Thursday morning demonstration.
In addition, the regional president of Catalonia, Pere Aragonés, from ERC, today played the role of host of the Franco-Spanish summit. This also drew the ire of hardline pro-independence groups.
Speaking on Wednesday, Aragonés defended the role of his party colleague. “Until Catalonia is independent, I will represent it with the highest institutional dignity,” he said in comments collected by the Spanish newspaper The country. “We must take advantage of all opportunities, occasions and places to defend democracy and the right to vote for citizens,” she added.
The protest drew 30,000 people according to organizers, although local police cited the lower figure of 6,500.
The place chosen for the demonstration was at the foot of the Montjuic mountain, by the National Museum of Art of Catalonia (MNAC), site of the Franco-Spanish summit.
The demonstration ended with whistles and boos as Sánchez and Macron arrived at the MNAC gates for their meeting.
The independence movement has been in crisis for about 18 months, something that It meant the end of the coalition in the regional parliament between ERC and Junts back in October.
Since then, ERC has governed alone, without an operational majority, and must seek the support of other parties such as the Catalan Socialists to pass laws.
Since he came to power, the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, has opted for dialogue with Catalan politicians in an attempt to calm the volatile situation in the region.
In addition to pardoning imprisoned pro-independence leaders, his government has also made changes to the Penal Code that have a direct effect on those who have already been tried and those who are about to be tried for their role in the events of 2017.
This includes the repeal of Spain’s sedition lawand a change to law covering misappropriation of funds, separating crimes that are for personal or other benefit. This affects the independence leaders since they used public money to pay for the referendum, among other things.