Speaking to the 700 mayors being investigated by Spain's Public Prosecutor and with the nearby Barcelona square of Plaça Sant Jaume absolutely full, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has advised the Spanish political establishment that “they should not underestimate the people of Catalonia”. The huge assembly of town council leaders, all with their mayoral staffs in hand, took place at the seat of the Catalan government, the Palau de la Generalitat, in a packed ceremonial courtyard. Meanwhile, the public gathered outside to support the municipal leaders, chanting "We will vote", singing songs and following the speech on giant video screens.
President Puigdemont addressed himself directly to Spanish prime minister Rajoy and Spain's political authorities generally, “those who, like Mr. Rajoy, threaten us, as well as those who look sideways at the situation, those who stay in the background so they do not have to face the crisis, and those who continue denying what is obvious”, and he advised that they “should not underestimate the strength of the people of Catalonia”. He continued: "They may publish their decrees and have their laws, but there is one thing that they do not have: they do not have you, the people of Catalonia."
The president advised Spain not to underrate the determination of a people who “have taken the decision to vote and to stand firm in the face of antidemocratic behaviour, which has confiscated some of their fundamental democratic freedoms and will be responded to in the only possible way, with more freedom and more democracy”.
Earlier, Puigdemont along with the speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, and vice president Oriol Junqueras, had gone to receive the hundreds of mayors, who had first met with Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, in the Town Hall on the opposite side of Plaça Sant Jaume. Colau watched the scene from the door of the Town Hall, not crossing the square with the other municipal leaders.
Responsible and civilized people
Puigdemont declared that Catalonia is a country of very responsible and civilized people, who in the face of provocation are capable of replying with humour, with a song or even by offering flowers. “This is how communities behave when they feel solid and safe and justified”, he added.
Starting his address, the president had greeted the crowd gathered in the square and said that they had come “to be part of a demonstration not to show force, but to assert dignity, firmness, persistence.” He also thanked the immediate support that the mayors had offered when the Government urged them to act for "the defence of democracy”, for a country “where free men and women live” and where public events are not forbidden and websites are not closed.
"Of course we will vote"
“When you took your mayoral vows", Puigdemont said, "you were aware that your duty was to defend the citizenry, and you have done so... Every day you have defended the freedom and the rights of your citizens: whoever thought that you would not remain at their side when a fundamental right such as the right of democratic decision was in play? What country did they think you mayors were part of?"
“They fear you, because you will be beside your local residents and in turn the residents will be at your side. You will not be alone, with this tight bond. In Catalonia, and anywhere in the world where it has been put to the test, this bond has been the fundamental guarantee of the democratic transformation of a society", he emphasised.
Puigdemont affirmed that on October 1st the referendum vote will take place. "Not only because we have the right to it and because it is legal, but because when you listen to what the people of Catalonia say to us, it is clear we want to vote. Of course we will vote!” he concluded.
Called to defend democracy
At the start of the event, vice president Oriol Junqueras had welcomed the mayors, warning that “what is at stake is democracy and we are called on to defend that”.
Junqueras stressed that the mayors are a “key element” of Catalonia in making possible this referendum, which he said “was not only about self-determination and the future republic, but also about democracy, the defence of fundamental rights and the rights to freedom of speech and assembly”.
The vice president stated that “the best way to defend the right to vote is by voting, the best way to defend the freedom of speech is by speaking out and the best way to defend the freedom of assembly is by assembling”. And he concluded: "Here and now we are asserting that we will be in the service of this people and of democracy".
Denouncing police persecution
The purpose of calling the mayors together today, said Neus Lloveras, president of the Association of Municipalities for Independence, was “to denounce the police persecution” that they are experiencing, to reiterate their support to the Catalan government, their “firm commitment to democracy” and the determination to support the people of their cities and towns. “We will not fail you”, he declared.
"We are here to defend the dignity of our institutions and citizens" said another key municipal leader, Miquel Buch, president of the Catalan Municipalities' Association. “All of us decided one day to step forward, leave our profession or combine it with the work of mayor; we made a commitment to serve the public, and public service today is at stake in the need to defend one of our most fundamental rights: democracy”.