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Catalan president Quim Torra, the speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, and the entire Catalan government went to Sant Julià de Ramis, the town where then president Carles Puigdemont was due to vote in the Catalan referendum a year ago today and which saw some of the most forceful police action. Whilst the CDRs (Committees for Defence of the Republic) led protests around the country, the government listened to their manifesto in Sant Julià, accompanied by insistent shouts that "the people decide, the government obeys". "Friends from the CDR, you put the pressure on and you do it well", Torra said at the start of his speech.

During his remarks, the president insisted, as he has repeatedly in recent days, on the recovery of "that determination and the same wish" which made the vote possible. He also urged those present to tackle the coming weeks and months "without fear of being free" and with the values of solidarity and brotherhood. "Either freedom, or freedom," he repeated.

He referred to the trial of the political prisoners and called directly on the "conscience of the Catalan people" to decide whether they will accept the sentence or not. "Because we cannot accept that voting is a crime," he said.

Large-scale disobedience

But the manifesto the CDRs read first went further still: "Not one step backwards over the cowardly blackmail of the Spanish state with our hostages. Our horizon is the Catalan republic and we won't settle for less".

The manifesto describes last year's referendum, and the days that preceded it, as "the largest act of popular sovereignty and large-scale disobedience this people has ever carried out".

"We defend civil disobedience as the only way to move forwards to full sovereignty. From here, we confirm that the people aren't backing down and that we have to build a collective strategy between everyone to achieve our desires for freedom," they write. They also demand "an institution which takes as its model the strength and dignity shown by organised society".

Torrent: "Strength and determination"

Before Torra spoke, the Parliament's speaker took the stage to say that whilst "truncheons that day took away the ballot boxes, they made collective dignity grow". "Everything we did on that day teaches us how we have to proceed. We'll never renounce the 1st October", he said, urging the independence movement to come together again with "strength and determination".

The speeches were given from a stage set up in front of Sant Julià's sports centre. The front zero was empty, with photographs on the chairs of the politicians and activists in prison or exile. The government was in the second row. From there, they watched performances by dancers, trabucaires (akin to an honour guard, in traditional dress and carrying blunderbusses) and castellers (people who construct castell human towers) and a recreation of the arrival of the ballot boxes to the town. As the government left, shouts could be heard for the interior minister, Miquel Buch, to resign.

Cabinet meeting

After the ceremony, the government held its weekly cabinet meeting at the Sant Julià's town hall, at the end of which the president read a manifesto surrounded by his ministers. Torra said that Catalonia is experiencing a "situation of absolute seriousness", with pro-independence politicians and activists in prison and investigations open against thousands of members of the public.

The dozens of people who gathered at the town hall to hear the speech greeted the cabinet again with shouts of "the people lead, the government obeys".

Torra demanded the release of the leaders in pretrial detention "as a kind of conviction without a trial or guarantees", the return of the exiles, the filing of the "general case against the independence movement and freedom of expression" and scrupulous respect for the most basic democratic principles.

"This government repeats its commitment to the democratic mandate of the 1st October and its absolute support for all those suffering reprisals for having defended the basic democratic principle of self-determination," he said. He also guaranteed that they will "always" maintain this commitment, "out of respect for the events that occurred last year, due to its wish to serve the public and because democracy and freedom will always be symbols of Catalonia".

"This government declares itself proud of a mature people which acts democratically and non-violently to defend rights which should never have been questioned in 21st century Europe," he read.

"1st October is and always will be the day that the people of Catalonia showed their commitment to democracy and freedom. It was democracy in its pure form, defeating fear, threats and violence," he said.

The government's statement started denouncing last year's events, when the Spanish government repressed basic rights like self-determination and freedom of expression. This, however, didn't stop more than two million people voting in the referendum, both for and against independence.

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