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Thousands of people, 200,000 according to the Urban Guard, have gathered this evening at and around the crossroads of Diagonal and passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona to call for the release of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, imprisoned without bail yesterday by the National Audience court facing charges of sedition.

"We don't ask for clemency. We demand justice!" cried the actress Sílvia Bel reading the event's manifesto. The centre-point of the event was five minutes of silence while attendees held their lit candles aloft.

The speeches started 45 minutes late, time needed to set up the portable stage in the middle of the crossroads of two of the city's key streets. Thousands of people were already filling Diagonal up to Francesc Macià, almost a mile away, and were spilling up and down passeig de Gràcia and through the gardens.

Both Agustí Alcoberro, speaking for the ANC (Catalan National Assembly), and Marcel Mauri, for Òmnium, warned that the imprisonment of the leaders of the two organisations will not stop the mobilisation in the streets. This evening's rally, organised in 24 hours, was the proof.

"However many people they imprison, we'll always have substitutes, and the substitute is as or more potent than those of us that will have to leave them space," said Alcoberro.

In a similar vein, Mauri said that "the Jordis are the first political prisoners we have" but that, as long as they're in prison, there will be someone ready to climb onto the stage to defend individual freedoms and democracy.

Tonight's event was attended by all the members of the leadership teams of Òmnium and the ANC.

Parliament and government

Among the attendees were the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, the vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, ministers Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Joaquim Forn, Meritxell Borràs, Carles Mundó, Josep Rull, Clara Ponsatí and Santi Vila.

The secretary general of ERC (Catalan Republican Left), Marta Rovira, the coordinator of PDeCAT (Catalan European Democratic Party), Marta Pascal and the leaders of Demòcrates (Democrats) and MES (Left Movement), Toni Castellà and Magda Casamitjana respectively, were also among the crowds, as well as representatives of Podem (We Can), JxSí (Together for Yes) deputies, Barcelona city council deputies from PDeCAT and ERC, town mayors, and the second deputy mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Asens.

"Freedom", "I'm not scared", "not one step back" and "you're not alone" are some of the chants that echoed around the groups. They also had messages for the police helicopter circling over the rally: boos, whistles and shouts of "forces of occupation out".

A single people

The manifesto which closed the event warned that Spain has crossed another red line with the detentions of Sànchez and Cuixart, committing an error which puts "at risk the democratic values that were the basis of the 1978 Constitution".

The text notes that the right to protest is basic in any democracy and accuses the Spanish state of acting like a dictatorship for imprisoning citizens for a peaceful demonstration, when they have committed no crime.

Both the manifesto and the speakers said that the aim of the imprisonments is to leave the entities rudderless and to provoke fear and division to neutralise the mobilisation in the streets.

"We're a single people, united and called on to safeguard democracy and liberty", proclaims the manifesto, which also calls the detentions unjust and illegal.