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More than 350,000 stood uo for Catalan in Barcelona protest

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More than 350,000 Catalans flocked the streets of Barcelona

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:12 am

Violence in Catalonia

Spain’s prime minister has warned that his government will not be provoked into overreacting as Catalonia braces for a third night of unrest following the imprisonment this week of nine pro-independence leaders for their roles in the failed push for regional independence two years ago

Speaking on Wednesday evening after holding talks with other political party leaders, Pedro Sánchez said the government would defend Spain’s constitution and peaceful coexistence but would not be tempted into inflaming tensions.

“The state will always guarantee the rights of those who wish to protest their ideas peacefully,” he said.

“But organised violent groups and those who try to break democratic laws will not achieve their aims … The only hope of those violent groups is that we’ll make mistakes and become overexcited and divided. They want us to fall for their provocations and feed a violent spiral.”

The prime minister’s address came as tens of thousands of people gathered in central Barcelona to protest against the supreme court’s verdict. Many threw toilet rolls in the air in a nod to the demonstration’s slogan:
    “There’s a lot of shit to clear up.”
As the demonstration wound down, some protesters once again skirmished with police and set fire to rubbish bins.

Sánchez said the government was ready to respond “to all scenarios” and called on the pro-independence Catalan president, Quim Torra, to unequivocally condemn the use of violence seen since Monday’s verdicts.

Referring to the regional government’s unsuccessful attempts to secure independence, Sánchez added: “No leader can camouflage their failure behind curtains of smoke and fire.”

Torra has been criticised for calling for civil disobedience while sending in Catalan riot police to restore order.

While the Catalan president declined to explicitly condemn the violence of recent days as he took part in a protest march from Girona to Barcelona on Wednesday, he later tweeted that “violence does not represent us”.

Earlier on Wednesday, the nine jailed leaders had issued a joint plea for peaceful protests after the Spanish government warned any further violence would be met with a “firm, proportional and united” response.

The nine called for a huge but peaceful response to their imprisonment.

“All support to mobilisations and massive and peaceful marches,” wrote the nine, who include the former regional vice-president Oriol Junqueras and two influential grassroots leaders, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. “No violence represents us.”

Planned peaceful demonstrations in Barcelona gave way to running battles with the police on Tuesday evening, 24 hours after thousands of pro-independence protesters attempted to shut down Barcelona airport, leading to police charges.

The Spanish government said 51 people had been arrested across Catalonia on Monday and Tuesday, and 54 officers from the regional police force and 18 from the national force had been injured.

Sánchez’s caretaker government has already said it could activate article 155 of the constitution, which would allow it to suspend the regional government and assume direct rule of the region.

Sánchez’s rightwing opponents are calling for the government to take a hard line on the latest eruption of the regional independence crisis. Spain is due to hold its fourth general election in as many years on 10 November.

The prisoners’ calls for calm had been echoed earlier by Catalonia’s vice-president, who pointed out that violence would only play into the hands of opponents.

“Let’s not give them what they’re after,” Pere Aragonès tweeted on Tuesday night. “We must defend our citizens and our institutions. Let’s refrain from violent behaviour.”

The latest unrest began on Monday after Spain’s supreme court acquitted the nine defendants of the charge of violent rebellion but convicted them variously of sedition, misuse of public funds and disobedience over their parts in the push to secede from Spain.

Junqueras was jailed for 13 years, while Sànchez and Cuixart received nine-year sentences.

The six others were given terms of between 10 and a half and 12 years


Hours after the verdicts were announced, an international arrest warrant was reissued for the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who spearheaded the push for independence.

It said Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid arrest by the Spanish authorities, was wanted for alleged sedition and misuse of public funds.

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https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/ ... f-violence
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More than 350,000 Catalans flocked the streets of Barcelona

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Re: Thousands of Catalans are thronging the streets of Barce

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Oct 18, 2019 12:59 am

Catalan president calls for
new independence vote


Quim Torra’s allies say it’s not the time to set ‘deadline’ for new referendum

Catalonia’s regional president called on Thursday for a new vote on independence from Spain as protests continue over the conviction of separatist leaders for staging the last referendum.

In a speech to the Catalan parliament, Quim Torra condemned the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision to jail former regional government officials for their role in an October 2017 independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence, saying Catalonia must defend its rights, including to freedom of expression.

“If we are sentenced to 100 years for putting self-determination to the ballot box, the answer is clear: self-determination must be put to the ballot box,” Torra told the parliament. “Within this legislative term, if we make it possible between all parties and organizations, we must be able to finish the process of validating independence.”

But Torra’s suggestion of holding a referendum by the end of the legislative term was met with shock from other pro-independence politicians, according to newspaper El Diario, who said they didn’t know he would suggest it.

“Now is not the moment to set deadlines,” said Sergi Sabrià from the pro-independence ERC, one of the parties that makes up the regional government.

Earlier in the day Torra called for an end to the violent protests that have rocked Barcelona since Monday’s conviction of the 12 separatist leaders to up to 13 years in jail.

Demonstrations began hours after the verdict was announced, with some 10,000 protesters swarming Barcelona's airport, causing more than 100 flights to be canceled. At least 130 people were injured.

Demonstrators in Barcelona on Wednesday set up blazing barricades, torched cars and launched projectiles at police.

Catalan unions have called on a general strike in the region for Friday

https://www.politico.eu/article/catalan ... ence-vote/
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Re: Thousands of Catalans are thronging the streets of Barce

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Oct 19, 2019 1:46 am

In Barcelona more than
500,000 separatists rally


Image

Heavy clashes erupted again on the sidelines of the Barcelona march, which drew more than half a million protesters

Violent clashes escalated in Barcelona late Friday, as radical Catalan separatists hurled rocks and fireworks at police, who responded with teargas and rubber bullets, turning the city centre into a chaotic battleground.

The deterioration came on the fifth consecutive day of protests in the Catalan capital and elsewhere over a Spanish court's jailing of nine separatist leaders on sedition charges over a failed independence bid two years ago.

Around half a million people rallied in Barcelona earlier on Friday, police said, in the biggest gathering since Monday's court ruling as separatists also called a general strike in the major tourist destination.

More than half a million people rallied in Barcelona on Friday in the biggest protest since the sentence

But while most marchers appeared peaceful, hordes of young protesters went on the rampage near the police headquarters, igniting a huge blaze that sent plumes of black smoke into the air, as police fired teargas to disperse them, an AFP correspondent said.

Other fires raged near Plaza de Catalunya at the top of the tourist hotspot Las Ramblas, where hundreds of demonstrators rallied in defiance of the police, who tried to disperse them with water cannon.

"Anti-fascist Catalonia!" they roared. "The streets will always be ours!"

Scores of police vans could be seen fanning out around the streets, their sirens screaming as the regional police warned people in a message in English on Twitter "not to approach" the city centre.

The situation later appeared calmer, according to a police spokesman.

Earlier, many thousands of "freedom marchers", who had set out to walk from five regional towns on Wednesday, arrived in Barcelona wearing walking boots and carrying hiking poles.

Barcelona officials say more than 700 large wheelie bins have been vandalised along with traffic lights, road signs and the city's bike share service

The rally coincided with the general strike, prompting the cancellation of 57 flights, the closure of shops, business and several top tourist attractions, and slowing public transport to a trickle in a region that accounts for about a fifth of Spain's economic output.

Activists also cut off Catalonia's main cross-border highway with France.

- 'Reaction to injustice' -

In downtown Barcelona, many shops and luxury outlets were closed on the city's Paseo de Gracia, with blackened, charred patches a testimony to the nightly clashes that have raged since Monday.

"With these demonstrations bringing this large city to a halt, we are using Barcelona like a microphone," said 23-year-old engineering student Ramon Pararada.

"It's all in reaction to the injustice," he said.

Retired lawyer Jaume Enrich agreed, saying the court sentence was "the straw that broke the camel's back".

"Madrid is putting Spanish unity above everything, including basic rights," he told AFP, wearing a badge saying "No surrender".

Nearby, a banner fluttered reading "There are not enough cages for this many birds."

- Clashes and closures -

The huge turnout came after yet another night of violent clashes, which Catalan regional interior minister Miquel Buch said involved "fewer incidents, but more violent".

And Barcelona city council said the first three days of clashes had cost an estimated 1.57 million euros ($1.75 million) in damage, with mob violence damaging traffic lights, street signs, trees and the city's bike-share service.

Some 128 people have been arrested since Monday, while 207 police officers had been injured before the violence escalated on Friday, according to Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska.

The emergency services said about 500 people in the region have suffered injuries since the beginning of the week, including 60 in Barcelona on Friday.

In Barcelona, Spain's top tourist destination, the Sagrada Familia basilica closed as protesters massed outside, and the Liceu opera house cancelled Friday night's performance.

At the city's famed La Boqueria market, most of the stalls were shut, although Susana Medialdea, 53, was selling olives and pickles entirely dressed in yellow.

"I came in voluntarily to work but only as long as I could wear yellow to express my total disagreement with the sentence," she told AFP.

But another veteran stallholder took the opposite view.

"I am a real Catalan but I don't support this independence project at all, people are letting themselves be used, above all the youth," said 75-year-old Carmen Isern.

- Spain's Clasico postponed -

With the region mired in chaos, football authorities cancelled the Barcelona and Real Madrid Clasico set for October 26 at the Camp Nou stadium. Both clubs had reportedly refused an offer to hold the match in Madrid.

And Manchester City's Catalan manager Pep Guardiola, an outspoken campaigner for the independence movement, urged European intervention to ease the crisis.

"The international community must help us to solve the conflict between Catalonia and Spain," he said. "Some mediator from outside (must) help us sit (down) and talk."

The Supreme Court's explosive decision has thrust the Catalan dispute to the heart of the political debate as Spain heads towards a fourth election in as many years, which will be held on November 10.

https://www.afp.com/en/news/3954/violen ... oc-1li9y26
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Re: More than 500,000 Catalans protest on streets of Barcelo

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Oct 19, 2019 3:01 pm

Catalan has
more violence


Catalonia’s president, Quim Torra, has called for talks with the Spanish government after Friday’s huge, peaceful march held in protest at the jailing of nine pro-independence Catalan leaders was followed by a fifth consecutive night of violent unrest in Barcelona and others parts of the region

Speaking on Saturday morning, Torra again condemned the violence of recent days, adding: “Violence has never been our flag.”

He urged talks with Spain’s acting government “to open a dialogue to find a democratic solution and a political and democratic” way out of the crisis over regional independence.

The pro-independence regional president has been criticised for his delay in condemning the violence – and for calling for civil disobedience before sending police forces in to quell it.

His call for talks came two days after he suggested another unilateral independence referendum should be held in response to the imprisonment of nine leaders over their roles in the failed push for secession two years ago.

Friday’s violence in Barcelona was centred on the headquarters of the national police force on Via Laietana.

Black smoke rose above the city as protesters set fire to rubbish bins and a newspaper kiosk. Thousands gathered in the surrounding streets chanting: “The streets will always be ours!”

Police struggled to control the situation, firing rubber bullets, teargas and, later in the night, a water cannon was deployed against demonstrators for the first time since it was bought from Israel in 1994.

Officers from both national and regional forces have been criticised for their heavy-handed actions and a journalist from El País was arrested while covering Friday’s skirmishes. Other members of the Spanish media have been intimidated and targeted by some independence supporters.

Fifty-four people were arrested and 182 received medical treatment on Friday night.

Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, said the violence could not continue. She criticised both the throwing of objects by protesters and the police’s use of rubber bullets as well as “the attacks on media professionals”.

She added: “Unfortunately, we endured some very serious moments of violence last night in a peaceful city that believes in dialogue.”

The city council says the violence this week has cost the city more than €2m (£1.7m) – much of it lost by the burning of more than 1,000 rubbish bins. Many Barcelona residents woke up on Saturday to find there was no where to put their garbage.

Hundreds of council workers were on the streets on Saturday trying to clean up from the previous night.

Spain’s interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, travelled to Barcelona on Saturday to meet his Catalan counterpart and to visit national police officers injured in Friday’s violence.

The march that had preceded the unrest had been overwhelmingly peaceful. According to Barcelona police, about 525,000 people congregated in the city, many of them having marched there from around Catalonia.

A radical movement of young Catalan separatists, Arran, has called for a new demonstration “against repression” in central Barcelona on Saturday afternoon.

Spain’s government has promised a firm, united and proportionate response to the violence but has said it will not fall into the trap of further inflaming tensions.

“The only hope of those violent groups is that we’ll make mistakes and become overexcited and divided,” the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on Wednesday.

Sánchez’s caretaker government has already said it could activate article 155 of the constitution, which would allow it to suspend the regional government and assume direct rule of the region.

The socialist prime minister’s rightwing opponents are calling for the government to take a hard line on the latest eruption of the regional independence crisis. Spain is due to hold its fourth general election in as many years on 10 November.

Although Sánchez has taken a more conciliatory approach to the Catalan question than his predecessor, he has ruled out any referendum on Catalan independence and insisted any negotiations will have to respect the Spanish constitution, which stresses the “indissoluble unity” of the country.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/ ... quim-torra
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Re: More than 500,000 Catalans protest on streets of Barcelo

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Oct 23, 2019 9:56 pm

Catalonia has created a
new kind of online activism


    Everyone should pay attention
Trouble is brewing in Catalonia. On October 14, Spain’s supreme court in Madrid sentenced nine pro-independence Catalan politicians to long prison terms – from nine to 13 years – for their roles in the Catalan referendum on independence in 2017.

Following the verdict, furious protests have ripped through the streets of Catalonia. What at first began as peaceful mass demonstrations has sparked sporadic violence, with protestors setting fire to buildings and damaging property, and police spraying crowds with rubber bullets and water cannons.

To an outsider, the protests can look like a homogenous mass of angry citizens revolting against the Spanish state. But the movement encompasses different factions, from long-standing separatist groups ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana) and Òmnium, to absolute newcomers. Among the latter is a mysterious digital network called Tsunami Democràtic.

What is Tsunami Democràtic?

It is one faction of the multifaceted pro-independence protest movement in Catalonia, formed shortly before October 14. But despite its young age, it is relevant: according to Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, the group instigated what is arguably the most disruptive protest action undertaken so far – the mass occupation of Barcelona’s El Prat airport by an estimated 10,000 protesters. It is especially how they did it that caught many people’s attention: everything Tsunami Democràtic does is orchestrated completely online – and it isn’t clear who exactly is behind it.

The organisation broadcasts both on Twitter, where it currently counts more than 188,000 followers, and on Telegram, where it has as amassed more than 330,000 subscribers. It’s also launched an ambitious protest-organisation app – but more on that later. Its webpage, featuring a video of a wave engulfing the screen, appears more like a glossy travel site.

(There are reports from within Catalonia that the website has been taken down in Spain; it remains accessible from the UK as of the evening of October 18.) The tsunami moniker might be inspired by the Bruce Lee ‘Be water’ quote that has been co-opted by the Hong Kong protestors to describe the movement as fluid, fast moving and adaptable.

“I didn't have a lot of faith in Tsunami Democràtic at first because there's been a lot of groups who sold themselves like they were going to be the revolution and then came to nothing,” says Alba Medrano, a 28-year-old activist based in Barcelona who has been involved in the pro-independence movement for the past 11 years. However, since the successful staging of the airport, confidence in the group has grown. She says right now activists are just waiting for the group’s next protest action to be called.

Medrano says that it’s still primarily other channels that she and fellow activists consult for updates. In particular, the Anonymous Catalonia group’s Telegram channel. “There, there’s a retransmission of everything that's happening. They keep posting every minute what's happening everywhere, so that's how we get information.”

However, where Tsunami Democràtic has managed to gain greater traction than established groups is online attention. For example, the Catalonia Anonymous faction counts just over 100,000 subscribers on Telegram, while CDR (Los Comités de Defensa de la República) has around 50,000.

But the group has another point of difference from others: a new app for coordinating protest activity in the region. Tsunami Democràtic has billed this as an organising tool that promises innovative ways of evading police detection and coordinating actions. Around 270,000 people have reportedly downloaded the app, which was only announced on Monday, October 14. It’s not yet been used to orchestrate activity, but the group has strongly encouraged people to download it ahead of more planned actions.

What does Tsunami Democràtic’s app do?

The app is a communication platform that's been designed to organise and mobilise protestors in a secure and efficient way – employing geolocation and friend-to-friend technologies to ensure only trusted members have access.

Getting access to the app isn't the most straight forward. It isn’t available through Android’s Play Store or on Apple’s App Store. Instead, you have to download an APK file (an Android Package file used to distribute applications on Google's Android operating system) from the website, and manually install it on your phone. The software doesn’t work on iPhones because Apple’s iOS has stricter safeguards in place.

The installation process may be used to avoid the chance that big tech firms remove it from app stores following pressure from the government, the exact fate that befell a Hong Kong protest organising app. It also allowed whoever developed the app to keep their identity more private than if they had published their creation through an official app store.

There’s more. To ensure the app remains in the hands of genuine protestors, rather than police or other infiltrators, users can only access it through a QR code from someone who is already a member of the network. Each person who joins receives ten QR codes to invite others.

The app also employs geolocation technology to coordinate activity. When you first download the app, you’re asked for your location (a loose estimation rather than exact coordinates). This means people can be organised in geographical “cells”, and protestors can only see actions taking place within a certain radius – preventing information from sloshing out across the network, and limiting what an infiltrator would be able to find out.

“Even if the police get inside this network, they will only get the notifications for one particular location,” stresses Enric Luján, a professor of Political Science who specialises in technology at the University of Barcelona.

This might mean that it will be easier to orchestrate multi-pronged protest activity. “There are going to be a lot of things going on at the same time. So I think it's going to be a really useful tool to avoid so much police repression,” says Medrano.

Why is the app important?

The app was first announced on Monday, October 14 and Tsunami Democràtic has suggested that something major is planned for Monday, October 21, and that the app will be helpful for those willing to partake. In a Telegram message sent on Friday, October 18, the group stressed that having the app would be useful.

Some of the app’s source code – not all of it – has been released publicly, and technologists have scoured the publicly available parts of the code for indicators about the app’s inner workings.

The app is built on top of Retroshare – a freely available software used to construct encrypted, friend-to-friend networks (peer-to-peer networks in which users only make contact with people they personally know) to share files or communicate without relying on any central server.

“In this mesh, nodes only exchange data with their connected ‘friends’, in order to maintain anonymity between non-friend nodes,” says Cyril Soler, one of Retroshare’s developers. “On top of that, Retroshare implements different techniques to allow data to be passed from node to node beyond your direct friends. That, for instance, allows the software to globally propagate distributed mail or files.”

While the app is decentralised in terms of nodes, experts have speculated that there might be some users who can see an overview of the app – where protestors are active and available across the city. However, whether this is the case is not clear from the publicly available code.

The decentralised nature of the network has other advantages. “These guys who are leading the movement have built a decentralised network in order to distribute the agenda, so that the police couldn't detect them as the central nodes,” says Luján.

Despite the app’s precautions, some concerns still remain. “Its traffic would be quite unusual, especially coming from mobile devices, which would probably make it easier to analyze and inspect for ISPs [internet service providers] – although I don't know if the authorities can legally request this kind of information from Spanish Internet Service Providers (ISP),” says Sergio Lopez, a software engineer, who has independently analysed Tsunami Democràtic’s publicly available code.

“This means that, even if the contents are encrypted, ISPs could potentially build a relationship map of nodes participating in this kind of [friend-to-friend] network.” It’s for this reason that other protest movements, such as the one in Hong Kong, rely on Bluetooth, thus avoiding and ISP's network.

There is a lack of consensus over how much time and effort it would have taken to create Tsunami Democràtic’s app. “This is not something developed by an activist in his or her free time,” says Luján. In contrast, Lopez suggests it may not be as complicated as it first appears. “The implementation of the F2F network, which would be the hardest part to implement, seems to be borrowed from RetroShare,” he says. “The rest is basically front-end. This could very well be done by a single developer, or a small team of them.”

However, there are caveats. “You also need to "bootstrap" the network, which means distributing the app, or a variant of the app to a significant amount of people, who would act as recruiters when the app is made available for everyone,” Lopez says. “These kind of logistics can't be accomplished by a single person, or a small group.”

As well as entering your location, you are also asked to enter the times when you’re available to protest. “It's like a clandestine army that you can invoke whenever and for whatever reason you want – you can decide to block one, two, three or 100 roads,” says Luján.

Okay, who is behind Tsunami Democràtic, really?

The organisation presents itself as an online grassroots movement, but it’s widely recognised that the app is a fairly sophisticated piece of software and the campaign is a tightly-run strategic operation.

Theories abound. “I think they're a few people, and that they're very intelligent and technically informed, like programmers,” says Medrano.

But another theory is also gaining ground. “I think it's a change of strategy of the main groups, which were involved in the first of our referendum two years ago,” says Luján. He believes that Tsunami Democràtic is a proxy group for the larger separatist organisations, and former members of the former Catalan government, currently residing in Brussels after fleeing the country in 2017.

Some Catalan politicians – including president of the Generalitat, Quim Torra; its vice president, Pere Aragonès, and the president of the Parliament, Roger Torrent – have publicly supported the group on social media. Tsunami Democràtic denies any link.

Spain’s interior ministry has expressed the desire to discover who is behind the group and the app, but this will likely be difficult – given it could be set up and run from anywhere in the world.

While the movement’s chief focus is of course on Catalan independence, Tsunami Democràtic has also signalled the possibility for scope beyond this. On Github, the developers specify that it’s a platform for the organisation of peaceful civil disobedience, which could be adapted for protests in any part of the world. “It's really ambitious, because technically speaking, you could destabilise any political system you wanted,” says Luján.

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/barcelo ... tests-news
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Re: Stand Up For Catalan UK Sat 26 Oct 12 noon details here

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:04 pm

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Re: Stand Up For Catalan UK Sat 26 Oct 12 noon details here

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:07 pm

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Re: Stand Up For Catalan UK Sat 26 Oct 12 noon details here

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:57 am

Catalan separatists on the streets

Catalonia is bracing itself for a further day of protests as pro-secessionist groups call for demonstrations in Barcelona over the jailing of their leaders

Link to Photo:

https://static.euronews.com/articles/st ... 260168.jpg

Two grassroots pro-secession organisations, ANC and Omnium, whose leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart were sentenced for sedition, have called for a march at 5 pm local time, while Catalan leader Quim Torra is expected to speak after meetings with regional mayors.

Also in Barcelona Saturday (today 26 October), a rally by the Hablemos-Parlem group in Plaza Sant Jaume will see protesters dressed in white calling for dialogue between Spain and Catalonia.

Cuixart told Reuters on Friday that in condemning him and other separatists to long prison terms the country was effectively criminalising all dissent against the state. He was jailed last week for up to 13 years alongside eight others over a failed bid for independence in 2017.

The 44-year-old said that he remained in favour of Catalan independence and would support another referendum on it, but spoke out against some of the violence that has been seen at pro-separatist protests in Barcelona.

Catalan language

Omnium Cultural, which Cuixart chairs, was founded in 1961 to defend Catalan culture under the Franco dictatorship when public use of the Catalan language was banned.

In Spain, all but one of the main political parties have consistently opposed an independence referendum for Catalonia, but separatist parties are not banned and the region already enjoys a degree of political autonomy and control over part of its budget.

About 2.3 million people turned out for the referendum - around 43% of eligible voters - with 90% voting to break away from Spain, according to the Catalan government, as many opposed to independence boycotted the ballot.

https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/26/cat ... -barcelona
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Re: Stand Up For Catalan UK Sat 26 Oct 12 noon details here

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Oct 27, 2019 11:22 am

350,000 Protest in Barcelona

Some 350,000 people protested on Saturday in Barcelona against the decision of the Spanish courts to serve hefty prison sentences to several separatist leaders from its region Catalonia

Image

The mass rally in the Catalan capital was a peaceful march, while another demonstration organized in the city by a direct action group was marred by street violence.

Last week saw violent protests in Catalonia Spain’s Supreme Court gave prison sentences ranging from 9 to 13 in years to 9 Catalan leaders, who were arrested last month, over their involvement in the attempt to declare the independence of the autonomous region back in 2017.

Back then, an independence vote declared illegal in advance by the Spanish authorities reached a turnout of over 43% (with 2.2 million votes cast), of which 92% voted in favor of independence.

Catalonia’s President Quim Torra has recently called for holding a new referendum and potentially achieving full independence by the end of 2021

The massive peaceful protest rally in Barcelona on Saturday stretched from the city’s waterfront to the landmark Sagrada Familia church, BBC News reported.

Earlier on Saturday, mayors of a total of 814 of Catalonia’s 947 local authorities met with the region’s President Quim Torra with chants of “independence”.

“[We must] force the Spanish state to talk,” Torra said, insisting that the Catalans must be united in order to oppose “repression”.

A pro-independence group’s rally before the police headquarters in Barcelona later on Saturday saw protesters throw stones and bottles at the riot police, leading to clashes and the crowd’s dispersal.

Spanish unionists are going to hold their own rally in Barcelona on Sunday, with politicians from Spain’s two main center-right parties, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos, expected to attend.

Spain’s fourth general election in four years is scheduled to be held in two weeks.

Meanwhile, supporters of the far-right Vox party rallied in the Spanish capital Madrid on Saturday against the seperatist movement in Catalonia.

“Faced with criminal separatism, there is only Vox!” declared party leader Santiago Abascal.

One recent public opinion survey showed that 44% of Catalonia’s residents favor independence while 48% oppose it.

Catalonia has a population of 7.5 million people, almost as much as Switzerland, and is roughly the size of Belgium in terms of territory. It accounts for nearly 20% of Spain’s GDP.

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