The president of the pro-independence organization Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Elisenda Paluzie, explained this Wednesday that this year's Diada - the national day of Catalonia, on September 11th - will be a "very decentralized physical mobilization with strict distance measures". In an interview with radio station RAC1, Paluzie said that 90 rallying points around Catalonia have been confirmed for the September 11th holiday and that distances of 2 metres between participants and the mandatory use of masks will be applied. “We are assessing whether to mark distances on the ground with chalk or some non-permanent paint,” she stated.
The ANC has organized annual pro-independence mass marches - usually attended by upwards of a million people -every September 11th since 2012, in a good-natured celebration which has been a key date for the Catalan independence movement. This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has meant the plans have had to change, to a more decentralized format.
But barring total confinement of the population, the rallies will go head, says Paluzie. If we are in a situation of total lockdown, "the mobilizations will not take place", she says, adding that a state of alarm would be needed to prevent it: "The right to protest cannot be banned." She also stressed that several buildings have been chosen as places to "express messages", such as "courts, Renfe rail stations, Spanish government departments and unemployment offices".
“Any citizen who shares the sentiment of the slogans is welcome to mobilize,” she remarked. The ANC president pointed to the organization's "experience" in organizing the massive Diada demonstrations every year and also noted that small-scale protests have taken place in recent months "and at no time have there been any agglomerations that have generated risk - on the contrary, people have acted with great responsibility." “There will be no shared banners", she added, in reference to the large banners carried jointly by many people, which could hypothetically be a source of infection.
The right to protest
Paluzie asserted that people must "not give up fundamental rights" such as the right to protest, and she compared the planned rallies with the fact that people are going back to work despite the Covid-19 pandemic. "On September 11th, the independence movement must set out and explain its political message on the street, with many safety measures. It is a very important day for demanding independence," she said.
Although the mobilization will take place in many different parts of Catalan territory, there will be a central political event in Barcelona with a programme of speakers, with the ability for these discourses to be followed by protesters in other places in Catalonia. The speeches will take place in front of the Barcelona headquarters of the Spanish tax agency, located in Plaza Letamendi. In the Catalan capital there will also be other events at emblematic points around the city such as the historic building of the University of Barcelona, in Plaça de la Universitat; the Bank of Spain, in Plaça de Catalunya; and the headquarters of the Spanish Social Security department, at the intersection of Carrer Aragó and Passeig de Gràcia.