The Catalan independence movement will once again be the protagonist in an important mobilization this Saturday, this time in the capital of Spain, which is the epicentre of the legal, political and police repression which the movement has undergone and which continues to hold nine political prisoners in Madrid prisons, in provisional jail. More than 500 coaches, according to the organizers, are making the journey to Madrid and although the vast majority left from Catalonia, a hundred started out from different parts of the Spanish state. The march's theme is the defence of the right to self-determination but it is obvious that the message is much wider: from the release of the political prisoners to the end of the repression; from an outcry about the loss of freedoms to the return of exiled leaders; from concern about a reemergence of sociological Francoism in political life, to criticism of the silence from the so-called left, at times just as timid as the right.
From Madrid's Neptune fountain, the meeting point, to Cibeles, via the Paseo del Prado; in total, one kilometre. Lining both sides of this route, the structures of the most official Madrid, the institutions that are the essence of any state: from the starting point, on the right, the monument to those who died for Spain, the Madrid Stock Exchange, the Naval Museum, the Post Office, the Naval Headquarters... and, on the left, the Bank of Spain, the Congress of Deputies, the Thyssen Bornemisza National Museum, the Zarzuela Theatre, the Cervantes Institute... And not far from Cibeles, where the stage for the end-of-march speeches will be located, the Plaza de la Independencia - not that of Catalonia, of course - where the Puerta de Alcalá monument stands.
Although it will obviously not be one of the largest marches ever held by the independence movement, it will have an important place on the political agenda. The presence of a very significant part of the Catalan government and the two top Catalan authorities, the president and the parliamentary speaker, is a message to the Spanish government and a warning about a trial in which the accusations are falling away one by one, without this apparently having any effect either on Spanish justice, its political class, or its news media. All are obsessed with imposing an exemplary punishment on a peaceful movement that has turned the call to vote in a referendum into a demand shared by several million Catalans and an unquestionable political and social majority.
With this flag of dialogue and with a long history behind it, the Catalan independence movement once again demands a negotiated solution to its demands, which cannot be other than a referendum. Let no one be mistaken about this, and especially not in Madrid: a negotiation that responds to the message on the banner at the head of the demonstration, not some other thing which will again bring the conflict back to kilometre zero, where it has always been. Because, as annoying as it may be, Catalan independence will not tire and will not return home putting its demands on pause for a generation or more. The current lack of progress, as the movement leaders have said more than once, does not signify a step back, but rather a re-energization to continue going forward. And, in this context, Madrid is, to use a cycling metaphor, an intermediate sprint in a long race.