The 2020 edition of Catalonia's national day, the Diada, will be the strangest and most atypical in history. The Covid-19 pandemic has altered everything and forced the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) to rethink the day which, for the last eight years, has been the most powerful manifestation of the pulling power of the independence movement. Thus, this year on September 11th, there will be multiple physical rallies all over Catalonia - over a hundred in fact - but they will be numerically small and carefully controlled in terms of public health. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Catalans are called on to mark their national day from home.
In the press conference held this Wednesday to present all the ANC's planned actions, the pro-independence association specified that a total of 48,000 people will be able to participate in person on the Diada at the 107 rallying points that have been organized in 82 different municipalities. However, the Assembly added that the list may yet grow longer as further actions are set up.
Of the points of protest, some, such as those at Barcelona's Plaça Universitat and Plaça Catalunya, and that in nearby Badalona, will be among the largest - although what that means is that around 400 people can take part in each. "Capacities have been decided by each local ANC branch", clarified ANC president Elisenda Paluzie, who added that "there will be a system of online pre-registration which will permit one person every four square metres". The main event - designated not for its size, but because some of the key speakers will give their speeches there - will be at Plaça Letamendi, outside the central Barcelona office of the Spanish tax department.
Paluzie commented that, at some of the physical rallying points, those who arrive will have to show their registration number, a measure to ensure capacity limitations are adhered to. Meanwhile, the ANC's three-page guide to public health measures for the Diada declares that "We can't not celebrate the National Day of Catalonia, but we must do so responsibly and safely, thus showing that we will not stop exercising our right to protest, but ensuring we safeguard public health while we do so." Among the obligatory measures are for rallies to be static, for hand disinfection gel to be made available, use of masks to be mandatory and a ban on consuming food while in the mani.
The ANC's national coordinator, Adrià Alsina, explained how the group has set up a call centre to resolve doubts among those who want to take part. "Independence is necessary and urgent and people are not resigning themselves [to the current situation]. Some will come out onto the streets to protest for the right to build a better future and be independent," he asserted. At the same time, Alsina wanted to emphasize that the locations selected for the rallies will be "broad avenues and streets, more than 20 metres wide."
How can you take part from home?
As Elisenda Paluzie has already said, most of this year's demonstration will be "by distance means". In an interview with the Ser Catalunya radio station on Monday, the ANC president called for people to get out on to their balconies at the symbolic time of 5.14pm - 1714 hours, to match the year 1714 when Catalonia's independent governmental institutions were abolished by Spain.
The pro-independence group stresses that the entire organization of the demonstrations is being coordinated with Catalonia's Civil Protection agency. “The goal is to ensure public health, but also the right to protest,” Paluzie reiterated.
Said Elisenda Paluzie in the press conference: "The Catalan independence movement in general, and the ANC throughout its history have been exemplary in their organisation of mobilizations, so we have a challenge this 11th September, to show we are capable of demonstrating, adapting to Covid-19 and guaranteeing public health."
"We have complete confidence in the Assembly's organizational ability," added ANC mobilization director Sonia Urpi. "All the people in different parts of the Catalan territory who in other years have come to Barcelona and behaved in an exemplary way, following the instructions that they are given. And this year, what they have been given are public health directions."