There's optimism among the organizers of the huge Catalan independence movement event in Perpinyà on February 29th, after the first meeting with the French authorities to authorize the rally. Sources close to the meeting have told ElNacional.cat that the French interior ministry asked the organizers, the Catalan Council for the Republic, to change some details related to the logistics envisaged - in particular with regard to security - but the event is not under threat, as had earlier been feared. In any case, they stress that the usual authorization process is being followed, but since there has never been such a big event in the Northern Catalonia city as the one being planned, everything is taking a little longer.
Today's meeting was the first face-to-face contact and although there is no definitive official response yet, the prefecture of Northern Catalonia considers that there is no reason which would justify banning freedom of expression. Representatives of the Council for the Republic's Northern Catalonia section presented in detail the dossier of the operation that they have prepared for the rally in the city's Parc des Expositions, which is expected to bring together the three Catalan politicians in exile who are MEPs: Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.
The corrections required by the French authorities will be made immediately, so a new meeting is likely at the Perpignan prefecture by tomorrow. It is a matter of "proving" that the safe and secure organization of such a large event can be guaranteed, they explain. The Council for the Republic intends to call a press conference in Perpinyà once they have obtained French permission to hold the event. They expressed their confidence in a tweet: "We'll get it".
Hem començat la ronda de reunions oficials amb la Prefectura per dur a terme l'acte del @ConsellxRep del 29. Les ganes que tot vagi bé són compartides per tots els actors concernits. Continuem treballant.— Consell per la República Cat Nord (@ConsellNord) February 18, 2020
"We have started the round of official meetings with the Prefecture required to hold the @ConsellxRep event on 29th February. All those involved share a desire for everything to go well. We're still working on it.
We'll get it! # EverybodyToPerpinyà"— Council for the Cat North Republic
Perpinyà will double its population
The rally has been named The Republic at the Centre of the World, and the organizers say that it will last for two hours. The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) has already filled 400 coaches heading for Perpinyà and hotel rooms in the city are booked out on the Friday night before the event. About 100,000 people are expected to attend, a figure not far short of the total population of the city, which is 120,000.
It will be the closest that Carles Puigdemont and the other exiled politicians have been to the border with (Southern) Catalonia since they left the country after the declaration of independence in October 2017. They will be protected by the parliamentary immunity from detention that they have as MEPs.
Apart from the appearance of Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí, the event will be attended by current Catalan president Quim Torra and former president Artur Mas. Various mayors from Northern Catalonia are also expected to be present and, given that the Council for the Republic is a composite body, both of the major Catalan pro-independence parties, JxCat and ERC, will be present, as well as other groups.