Tens of thousands of people - 90,000 according to the organizers and 10,000 according to the Barcelona city police - rolled up on Sunday to the first protest against the extension of the El Prat airport's third runway. Not even the suspension of the project by the Spanish government after its differences with the Catalan executive was enough to call off the protest, which was attended by representatives of parties from both governments: the Comuns, who have ministers in Pedro Sánchez's executive, and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), who hold the presidency of the Catalan government and account for half of its cabinet members.
The fact that the actual ministers in these parties remained physically absent from the protest rally does not detract from the political significance of the position of ERC and the Comuns, who along with the CUP, were the three parliamentary parties who took part in the demonstration.
Although the protest was an amalgam of parties and groups, from those who oppose the lengthening of the third runway due to its environmental impact on the Ricarda lagoon to those who are against any expansion, under any circumstances, because of the broader environmental implications - those who are in favour of actually reducing the capacity of El Prat airport - the organizers achieved their main goal: to show enough muscle for a political agreement on the expansion to be, with the current correlation of political forces, virtually unthinkable.
The fragility of the Catalan pro-independence government, with two very different positionings on the issue, at least when debate began back in August, and the indifference with which the airport operator AENA and the Spanish government have treated the Catalan executive, also contributed to the way that the famous 1,700 billion euros disappeared from the negotiating table in the blink of an eye. While Pedro Sánchez, of course, gave false lessons in dialogue and negotiation.
The demonstration obviously achieved its purpose, which was none other than to raise awareness among some parts of the public that we must be vigilant, because even if the expansion has been paralyzed, it could be revived at any time. The Spanish government also has arguments for shifting responsibility for the suspension to the Catalan side and thus, step by step, gaining hegemonic positions in the non-independence political space. This has become very clear in recent days. Neither the Popular Party nor Ciudadanos have played any role in the debate and all the media prominence has been for the Socialists. The Catalan government, on the other hand, is dragging its feet on this issue, not sure where it wants to be, between the protesters on the one hand and the economic sectors on the other.