The crowd was imposing and the message was clear: "No deal with Spain to put us in prison". That was the slogan under which thousands of people marched along Barcelona streets from the Pla de Palau to an absolutely jam-packed Plaça Sant Jaume this Tuesday at midday. The demonstration was called by the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and received wide support from dozens of organizations that joined the manifesto, rejecting the currently-in-process reform of the Spanish Penal Code. The agreement reached by the parties of the Spanish governing coalition, PSOE and Unidas Podemos, with the Catalan government under ERC has meant the repeal of the crime of sedition, but at the same time has led to the strengthening of public disorder offences and penalties. The modification could lead to the criminalization of protest, numerous legal voices have warned.
The ANC summoned the public at 12 noon to the downtown Pla de Palau, but a good while before then, the space was already filling up with people. A group of people took part in the burning of the Spanish Constitution - Tuesday was a public holiday for the Day of the Constitution - in an act called half an hour earlier in the same place by the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR). Dozens of people threw cardboard replicas of Spain's post-Franco document of 1978 into a bonfire in the middle of the road, while some Spanish flags were also burnt, amid chants of "traitors", "government, resign" and "independence".
"Aragonès, resign" and "Puigdemont, our president"
Those were the first expressions of what ended up being the mood of a mobilization which attracted over 10,000 people according to the organizers, (4,500, said the Barcelona city police). A protest that was called against the "double-edged" reform of the Penal Code, reflected in banners seen en route with warning messages such as 'Aggravated public disorder: to support it is to betray the people' and 'A new toy for the corrupt Francoist justice system'. But the attention of the majority of those present was directed towards the Catalan executive under the Republican Left party, with numerous forceful and repeated chants that went beyond just asking for Catalan independence. Amidst the estelades and the black-star, 'no-surrender' flags, chants circulated calling for the departure of the president of the Generalitat and vindicating one of his predecessors. "Aragonès, resign" and "Puigdemont, our president" were some of the most repeated messages, which were also seen on placards.
The calls only got louder when the head of the march reached Plaça Sant Jaume. In front of the Generalitat palace (where the government had held its cabinet meeting, and just as the spokespeople Patrícia Plaja was giving the subsequent press conference) the demonstrators crammed in to the square, repeating the same chants and listening to the speeches of the march leaders. The journalist Albano Dante Fachín and the leaders of the ANC Dolors Feliu and Jordi Pesarrodona both spoke, in addition to representatives of organizations and platforms such as the Coordinadora de l'Advocacia de Catalunya, Meridiana Resisteix, CDR, the National Federation of Students of Catalonia and the Anti-Repressive Platforms of Barcelona and Ponent. All of them were greatly applauded by the public. During the march, some of the key names of Junts and the CUP were also seen, such as Laura Borràs, Jordi Turull and Carles Riera, while the critical wing of ERC also confirmed their attendance.