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Freedom, democracy and independence were the main calls of a morning of demonstrations in Barcelona's plaça Sant Jaume and around the whole of Catalonia. The first of the day's rallies was ready at 12 noon in the centre of the Catalan capital, showing the discontent of a large part of Catalan society.

The standstill wasn't limited to Barcelona, however, spreading around the whole of Catalonia, calling for an end to the repression and the incarceration of the political prisoners: the presidents of pro-independence organisations ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart and Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and seven of his fellow ministers. Meanwhile, president Carles Puigdemont and four other ministers are in Brussels, free, but on conditions set by the Belgian justice system while considering Spain's extradition request.

The midday demonstration was organised by ANC and Òmnium in Barcelona's plaça Sant Jaume, in front of the Catalan government palace and Barcelona City Hall. The square was overflowing with people with a single aim: to demand justice. Protesters started arriving long before the official 12pm start time, shouting slogans defending Catalonia and calling for the release of the political prisoners.

The chants were varied, but all based on a single idea. "The streets will always be ours", "this Europe is an embarrassment", "political prisoners, freedom", "our president in Puigdemont" and "this isn't democracy, this is dictatorship" were all heard in a packed plaça Sant Jaume. All these accompanied by the already well-known slogans for the independence of Catalonia.

The demonstration was full of symbolism and aimed at getting Europe's attention. The Catalan people wanted to denounce the intervention in the region's autonomy by the central government and the imprisonment of part of the Catalan government.

bernat aguilar plaça sant jaume

Demanding freedom

After the reading of the manifesto from Taula per la Democràcia (Board for Democracy) which argued for the freedom of the political prisoners and described Catalonia as "an unstoppable country", a call was made for the demonstration to be peaceful. They asked that problems always "be solved politically" and for "the return of democratic normality".

Agustí Alcoberro, vice-president of ANC, gave a speech to express the rejection for the current situation in Catalonia. He said he didn't accept "the disappearance, in practical terms, of self-government" and described the situation of the political prisoners as "shameful" and "humiliating".

Marcel Mauri, spokesperson for Òmnium, also spoke to those at the rally in the centre of Barcelona to say that "we're a country of shared fights". The new accidental leader of the pro-independence organisation demanded that "the [Spanish] state stop repressing the people of Catalonia", and made another call to mobilise in the streets all the time demonstrating that "we're a people of peace".

There will be another wave of demonstrations at 6pm this evening in front of dozens of town halls around Catalonia, in the second "general standstill" of the country since the 1st October referendum. The first, on 3rd October, was in response to the police violence during the referendum and had a similarly large impact around Catalonia.