Barcelona's plaça de la Catedral, the square in front of its historic cathedral, has filled this afternoon with the call for the release of the political prisoners. As members of the public continue closing roads and train lines around Catalonia, thousands of people have responded to the call from pro-independence organisations Òmnium Cultural and ANC (Catalan National Assembly) to gather in opposition to the actions of the Spanish state.
"Release political prisoners!" posters, estelada "starred" pro-independence flags and symbolic loops of yellow ribbon in support have filled the heart of Barcelona late this afternoon. People of all ages have gathered in plaça de la Catedral to call for the release of the members of the government and leaders of Òmnium and ANC currently in prison. Indignation was the main theme among the attendees, who say they're decided to continue fighting. "Not one step back," echoed round the square on a number of occasions. Demonstrators showed the opposition to the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, shouting "out, occupants of the Palau [government palace]", "we're a republic" and "Puigdemont is our president". They also demanded the withdrawal of the Spanish National Police and Civil Guard with the shout of "out forces of occupation". Other slogans included one of those heard regularly in recent protests, "the streets will always be ours", and a new one, "out, out, out, Spanish justice". Protesters also cried that "the PP [Popular Party] is a dictatorship" and called for help from the EU: "Where is the European Union?"
At the start of the event a manifesto from Taula per la Democràcia (Board for Democracy) was read out, as it was at many other rallies around the country. The manifesto says that article 155 "seriously affects people's lives" and constitutes "a direct attack on democracy". It notes that the control of the Catalan government's finances affects associations, complicates the fight against inequality and could lead to the loss of jobs. The Board announces their firm commitment to the democratically elected institutions of Catalonia and calls for "the return of political normality", noting that lawsuits aren't the way to solve any problem.
A number of speakers represented a variety of organisations, in speeches complicated by sound problems. The National Council of the Youth of Catalonia said that they cannot accept any Catalan government not democratically elected. A representative of the Farmworkers' Union emphasised their unbreakable commitment to democratic freedoms and said that, facing the current "social emergency", a strong reaction is needed under the slogan "Freedom, Amnesty and Self-determination".
Boos for the UGT
Camil Ros, of the UGT, one of the largest Spanish unions, which didn't join calls for a strike today, was received with boos and cries of "strike, strike, general strike". His speech was inaudible from large parts of the square, despite the organisers asking for respect. On the other hand, the representative of education union USTEC was warmly applauded. They noted that public and concertada (semi-public) schools had joined the strike, expressed their loyalty to Clara Ponsatí, "the only minister we recognise" and made it clear that teachers do not indoctrinate their pupils, but will not stop talking about politics in the classroom. Also loudly applauded was the representative of the CDR (Committees for the Defence of the Republic), who discussed the many actions in the large-scale mobilisation around Catalonia today, as well as the resistance to the security forces who tried to prevent the referendum on 1st October. Another ovation was given to the representative of Intersindical-CSC, the union who initially called the strike for today.
The speeches were closed by the representatives of ANC and Òmnium. Agustí Alcoberro, of ANC, thanks all those present and all those involved in the day's mobilisations. He said that "today a message has been sent to the world and to the Kingdom of Spain, that this isn't a cowed people, and that it's ready to fight for its freedom". He said that he's convinced they will achieve the return of the political prisoners and that the president the Catalans elected will also return. He continued that "there's no other solution than victory", with "the release of the prisoners, the return of those in exile and the proclamation of the Catalan Republic". Alcoberro called on the public to mobilise, especially for the demonstration planned on carrer Marina on 11th November. From Òmnium, meanwhile, Marcel Mauri called for perseverance in the fight and said that "we've hard won our rights in this country, nobody has given us anything for free". The event ended with Catalan singer-songwriter Cesk Freixas playing L'Estaca, a song about fighting for freedom by Catalan musician Lluís Llach, regularly heard at recent protests.