Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards gathered yesterday in Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s region, to protest Catalonia’s independence referendum, a bid by pro-union groups to gain traction against a unilateral declaration of independence that is expected to come this week. The demonstration in Barcelona is a rare display of the strength of the pro-union movement.
Yesterday, Barcelona’s streets were filled with an unusual sight: people waving red-and-yellow Spanish flags, unfurled next to Catalan regional flags. Nobel Literature Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa said that about 930,000 people had gathered, adding that “for some time now, nationalism has been wreaking havoc in Catalonia and that’s why we’re here, to stop it.” In contrast, local police in Barcelona put that number at around 350,000.
Regional polls by the region’s survey agencies indicate that more than a third of Catalans are supportive of an independent Catalonia. The 1 October independence referendum was, however, marred by riots and clashes between police and voters and declared illegal by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
A number of Spanish companies have already indicated that they would move their legal headquarters out of Catalonia on concerns that the region would declare independence in the coming days. Alongside the demonstrations of the pro-union forces, the Spanish government is looking into ways to capitalize on the economic pressure on Catalonia — one of Spain’s most prosperous regions — by giving a green light to a decree that would make it easier for companies to move their legal base out of Catalonia.