Now as an MEP, and as such, covered by parliamentary immunity from arrest, Carles Puigdemont will arrive in Perpinyà on Saturday, February 29th. Accompanied by fellow MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí - with the latter set to gain parliamentary status after Brexit takes effect on January 31st - the Catalan president in exile will be welcomed to an event in the southern France and Northern Catalonia city.
The meeting, organized by the Catalan exile body Council for the Republic, will be held at 12 noon in the large carpark surrounding the Parc des Expositions in Perpinyà. "Carles Puigdemont will be the protagonist of this event, at which we expect between 50,000 and 100,000 people to attend," confirmed local Council for the Republic representative Júlia Taurinyà to L'Indépendant newspaper.
The event seeks to have a transversal character and participation is also expected from major pro-independence groups the Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural, as well as the Northern Catalonia mayors who have signed a manifesto calling for respect for the freedoms and fundamental rights of the Catalan people.
The act has been named The Republic at the Centre [of the world], a reference to the famous comment by artist Salvador Dalí declaring the city's railway station to be the centre of the universe.
The organizers' first intention was for the event to take place in a venue closely associated with Catalan culture in Northern Catalonia, such as the USAP rugby team's home ground, the Aime Giral Stadium. However, due to the expectations for numbers likely to attend, this option was ruled out.
Hundreds of volunteers
The presence of Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí, which the Council of the Republic has already taken as a given, is expected to completely free of any risk of attempts to arrest the exiled Catalan politicians. The French state has assured that it will not detain them due to their immunity as European parliamentarians. It is expected that Ponsatí will already be a full fledged MEP by the date of the event.
On Saturday, a first organizational meeting took place for the welcoming of the three Catalan politicians to Perpinyà, and this Sunday a second was held. Both were attended by volunteers who are helping to prepare the largest event ever organized in Northern Catalonia.