The “civic rally” led by Albert Rivera in Barcelona this Sunday has flopped. In spite of the presence of the Spanish leader of Ciudadanos (Cs), the party's so-called civic platform España Ciudadana failed to completely fill Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona, with a lot of empty spaces visible around the square. Even the party's leader in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas, was absent, being unable to reach the gathering from Madrid due to agenda problems.
Under the slogan “No to violence, yes to the constitution,” supporters were called to gather at the Plaça de l'Àngel, and march for less than 200 metres to the Plaça Sant Jaume. On their brief trajectory there was time for a few chants of “the streets are also ours”, and "hurrahs" to the Civil Guard, the National Police and the Army. Once they reached their objective, some demonstrators chanted “get rid of this ribbon”, in reference to the yellow ribbons, in solidarity with the Catalan political prisoners, hung on the square's major buildings, the Palau de la Generalitat and the Barcelona city hall.
An Albert Rivera unaccompanied by other speakers then greeted the several hundred supporters who were present in the square. Rivera made mention of the major unionist demonstration held almost exactly a year ago, on 8th October 2017, but also wanted to recall the Spanish police who had been stationed in Barcelona at that time, and adding a political version of the "let's go get 'em" slogan. He had bad words to say about Catalan president Quim Torra as well as for Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez.
“We'll go get 'em”
In fact, the Cs leader urged the Spanish president to “come down from the helicopter” and call Spanish general elections. “When he does so, we'll get all the constitutionalists together, and we'll go get 'em”, promised Rivera, in a variation of the "let's go get 'em" phrase used last year by unionists to egg on Spanish police to stop the independence referendum. Rivera denounced that the “political system is in the service of nationalism”, and assured supporters that he had a "plan".
The unionist leader began his speech referring to recent days as “a black week", a year after what he called "the coup d'état”. He highlighted that his parliamentary deputies had to be “escorted from the Parliament” during last Monday's protest outside the Catalan chamber, that on the same day “hooded figures” had “surrounded civil servants” in Girona and taken down the Spanish flag and that roads had been "blocked illegally”. In response to all this, he declared, “the government of Spain is not present and is not expected”.
“Sánchez has abandoned constitutionalist Catalans”, said Albert Rivera, demanding the renewed application of article 155 to suppress Catalan self-government. “There are people who ask us why 155 should be applied again”, he said. And he pointed the finger at president Quim Torra: “Well, it's because the person who must guarantee the constitution is working to liquidate it”. He affirmed that the independence movement “has got the state on the ropes”, but warned that “the state is not just Sánchez”.
"Don't pardon them"
The Cs leader said that Torra “encourages those who use violence and gives thanks to separatist commandos”, and that he is “a president who has not won at the ballot box”. And he addressed himself to Sánchez once again: “Do you really think that Mr Torra will protect our rights?"
Rivera also took the opportunity to thank not only the work of the Spanish police corps this time last year, but also the much-criticised speech by king Felipe on 3rd October 2017. “On October 3rd he fronted up on behalf of everybody. A head of state has to be to up to the task, and the King was up to the task”, he said. Rivera also promised to set a minimum national vote percentage of 3% to avoid certain parties from gaining representation.
Finally, the Ciudadanos leader referred to the situation of the political prisoners. He said that if they are in prison “it will be for some reason” and demanded “that they not be pardoned, that they serve their sentences”. The supporters listening responded with chants of “Puigdemont, to prison”.