Spanish nationalists have returned to the streets of Barcelona this 12th October to celebrate the day known as Dia de la Hispanidad - Hispanic Day, and also Spain's national day - and at the same time to again show their disagreement with the Catalan independence cause. The rally, which attracted about 65,000 people under the slogan "Barcelona, guarantee of Spain's unity", brought together about 150 different Spanish unionist associations and political parties. This year, the head of the march featured not only senior figures of major parties Ciudadanos (Cs) and the Popular Party (PP) but also the leaders of the extreme right-wing party Vox.
In fact, the PP's leader in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, and its head in Barcelona, Alberto Fernández Díaz, walked shoulder-to-shoulder with the secretary general of the far-right party, Javier Ortega. Alongside them was the Cs leader in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas. A second extremist right group, Somatemps, was also there.
Just last week, the Vox party called for an end to Spain's constitutional regime ― it being the basis for the system of Spanish autonomous regions which Vox wants to abolish ― and yet this fact was not enough to prevent parties which refer to themselves as "constitutionalist", such as Cs and the PP, from marching side by side with the anti-immigrant, anti-feminist extremists through the centre of Barcelona on Friday.
"We expect that by next 12th October, the coup plotters will be serving long prison sentences", said the Vox leader Ortega to journalists at the start of the demonstration. Fellow unionist leaders Arrimadas and Albiol also spoke to the press, criticising the Catalan parliament's approval on Thursday of a motion condemning the actions of king Felipe VI in relation to the Catalan independence process. The Cs and PP leaders blamed this parliamentary situation on Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez.
65,000 people, say city police
At the start of the march, participants only partially filled the city's Passeig de Gràcia boulevard ― with a large concentration in the lower stretch of the street, a large gap and and then a second grouping of marchers at the level of Carrer de Provença. However, by the end of the march, the crowd filled Plaça Catalunya completely. The organization claimed a turn-out of 300,000, but the Barcelona city police estimate was one-fifth as large: 65,000.
"Puigdemont, to prison"
During the act at the end of the demonstration in Plaça Catalunya, chants of "Puigdemont, to prison" were heard, from both demonstrators and march organizers. One of the first to lead the cry was Vox leader Javier Ortega (video below). Those making speeches at the end of the march included the group Espanyols i Catalans and the far-right Somatemps, with insults to Catalan presidents Quim Torra and Carles Puigdemont featuring in the addresses.
The leader of the Espanyols i Catalans platform, Javier Megino, referred to the pro-independence leaders as "coup plotters" and called for the resignation of Pedro Sánchez for coming to power through the support of the independence parties. He also denounced the "indoctrination" which he said was carried out by Catalan schools, and labelled those who are unionists like himself as "first-class" or "good" Catalans.
The leader of the extreme right Somatemps group, Josep Alsina, referred to Catalan president Torra abusively as "chistorra" and said that he is "not at all honourable" and "highly unpresentable". Moreover, he threatened to take the Catalan president to court if he continues with the independence process. And he denied the Spanish genocide in Latin America: "The Spaniards didn't carry out genocide, they married the indigenous people and gave them Spanish surnames":
Josep Bou, of the employers group Empresaris de Catalunya, also spoke in Plaça Catalunya, offering his recognition of those who "are cleaning Catalonia of the yellow plague" - referring to the unionist groups who dedicate themselves to removing the yellow ribbons that show solidarity with Catalan prisoners and exiles. "We are not unionists," he said, "because we are already united. We are not españolistas - Spanish nationalists - because we are already Spanish", he declared to the crowd.
Finally, the leader of the group Societat Civil Catalana, Manuel Miró, told Torra "that he shouldn't speak in the name of everyone, if he doesn't want to follow in the footsteps of Puigdemont and have to flee the country". "The separatist leaders must not act as though they are deaf. Everything was supposed to be theirs, but we have told them that enough is enough and we will never again remain silent", he added.
The event in Plaça Catalunya also featured the presence of the Tabàrnia platform - the unionist idea, intended as a joke but taken seriously by many, to make its own breakaway declaration of independence in part of Catalonia. The platform staged its own simulated referendum and a symbolic declaration of the autonomy of Tabàrnia. Via video, actor Albert Boadella proclaimed the supposed autonomy of the new region, in a parody of the actual declaration and immediate suspension of the Catalan Republic made on 10th October last year.
Throughout the event, salutes and cheers in favour of Spain's king Felipe were heard, as well as chants like "Catalonia is Spain", "I am Spanish", "Puigdemont, to prison" - repeated frequently during the rally - , and "Pedro Sánchez, resignation".