Friday, September 12, 2014

1.8 million Catalans form an 11km-long flag mosaic supporting November's independence vote

On Catalonia's National Day, on the 11th of September, as in 2012 and 2013, pro-independence supporters have once again created a colossal demonstration, unique at a European level, to demand the right to hold a self-determination vote. According to Barcelona local police, 1.8 million participants of all ages and social origins, coming from the whole of Catalonia, formed a V-shaped mosaic displaying the Catalan flag along Barcelona's two main avenues to symbolise 'Vote', 'Victory' and 'Will', all three which start with a 'V' in Catalan. The rally became a strong support for the 9th of November consultation vote that has been agreed by a two-third majority of the Catalan Parliament. In the vertex of the V-shaped rally, fully organised by civil society organisations, where the avenues cross each other, a stage decorated with columns of ballot boxes had been set up; one ballot box for each of the 947 Catalan municipalities. "On the 9th of November we will vote. On the 9th of November we will win" read the
demonstration's main banner. Carme Forcadell, President of the grassroots ANC, which co-organised the rally, demanded the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, "to put out the ballot boxes" in November. On the morning, a few hours before the demonstration's kick off, Mas emphasised that "everything is ready" for such a vote. Mas asked the Spanish authorities not to see the demonstration as "a provocation or a challenge", but as "a demand to vote". However, the Spanish Government has announced it will "do whatever is necessary" to stop the vote from happening.


At 17.14pm, commemorating the year Catalonia lost its sovereignty and freedoms, a girl who will turn 16 on the voting day and will therefore be allowed to cast her vote, symbolically put a ballot into a box. Once again, supporters of Catalonia's independence have shown their will to hold a free and democratic vote on independence from Spain and have peacefully demonstrated in a festive mood. According to Barcelona local police, 1.8 million participants filled Barcelona's Gran Via and Diagonal avenues until the Glòries Square. The Spanish Government stated that between 470,000 and 520,000 attended the demonstration.

A year ago, 455,000 people registered to form a human chain, which ended up gathering 1.6 million people, according to the Catalan Police. This year, more than 550,000 citizens signed up to form the flag mosaic, but the demonstration gathered many more individuals, forming the largest demonstration ever in Catalonia and probably in Europe.

In order to guarantee the completion of all the 73 stretches into which the route was divided, participants were encouraged to register online, as they did for the 2013 demonstration. Following the instructions from the organisers, they were wearing red or yellow t-shirts and formed the red and yellow stripes of the Catalan flag along 11 kilometres. Catalan Police confirmed that no violent episodes have taken place and that the massive demonstration has taken place quietly.

The demonstration was organised by Òmnium Cultural, a civil society organisation promoting Catalan culture and language, and Catalonia's National Assembly (ANC), the grassroots association demanding Catalonia's independence from Spain. 7,000 volunteers guaranteed the proper formation of the mosaic. More than 1,500 busses have brought participants to Barcelona from all the corners of Catalonia. Furthermore, Barcelona's public transportation and short-distance train services have been strengthened, with wagons packed of people. On top of this, parking spaces have been set up throughout Barcelona and its metropolitan area.

Throughout the demonstration, 54 groups of castellers, which came from across the whole of Catalonia, formed the traditional Catalan human towers. Furthermore, three stages were set up: one at the vertex and two others in the two other extremes of the demonstration. At one extreme, the stage was named "Will" and at the other, "Vote". The stage at the vertex was named "Victory", expressing the demonstrators' hope to become independent from Spain. Music interpretations and political speeches demanding to vote on the 9th of November were addressed to the attendees.



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