On Spain's National Day, on the 12th of October, the unionist association called Catalan Civil Society (SCC) organized a massive demonstration against Catalonia's self-determination and independence in downtown Barcelona, which was backed by the People's Party (PP) – running the Spanish Government, the anti-Catalan nationalist party Ciutadans (C's) and the Spanish nationalist party UPyD. However, the unionist demonstration was smaller than expected very far from congregating hundreds of thousands of people, and even further from the colossal successes of the pro-independence rallies of 2012, 2013 and 2014. Last Sunday, between 16,000 and 38,000 people demonstrated in Barcelona for Spain's unity, according to different sources.
Between 900,000 and 1.8 million demonstrated for independence a month ago. "We are Catalonia, we are Spain" and "Building bridges, not walls" were some of the banners showed. SCC accused self-determination supporters of "supremacism" and acting in a "naïve" way, issuing "a grotesque message" about independence, "which will make us poorer". PP, C's and UPyD asked the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, "to listen to the not-so-silent majority". They accused Mas of "lying" to Catalans and asked him for "common sense". Besides, two other demonstrations were also taking place against Catalonia's independence in Barcelona on the same day, organised by extreme-right parties. A first one was organised by the marginal racist Catalan party PxC and by the Spanish Nationalist and far-right trade union Manos Limpias (nothing to do with the Italian homonym organisation), under the banner "Spain: a nation for all", written both in Catalan and Spanish. This demonstration finally merged with that of SCC in Catalunya Square. A second small demonstration had been organised by supporters of Franco dictatorship and neo-Nazi groups, which was attended by some 300 people. This small rally took place in Espanya Square and several Catalan independence flags were burnt.
On Sunday 12th of October, coinciding with Spain's National Day, unionist supporters and parties participated in a large-scale demonstration, which tried to counter-act the massive pro-independence rallies. It was the 3rd consecutive year that a demonstration was organised to support Spain's unity in the Catalan capital on the 12th of October. As happened in 2012 and 2013, organisers again failed to totally fill up Catalunya Square with people, since several sides of this public area were empty of demonstrators. However they still gathered thousands of people carrying Spanish and Catalan flags.
38,000 pro-unity demonstrators vs 1.8 million pro-independence demonstrators
According to Barcelona's Local Police, 38,000 people participated in it; a month ago, 1.8 million participated in the rally for the non-binding referendum vote and independence, according to the Catalan Police. According to alternative calculations made by independent university professors, between 16,000 and 18,000 people demonstrated on the 12th of October for Spain's unity while 900,000 did so on the 11th September for Catalonia's independence. Despite the different figures, in all the calculations, the pro-Spain's unity demonstration was about 50 times smaller than the pro-independence one.
In both cases, the demonstrations were fully advertised in public and private media and political parties also worked to increase participation despite the rallies having been called and organised by civil society associations. Furthermore, SCC fleeted many free buses from other parts of Catalonia and Spain to attend Sunday's demonstration in Barcelona, on which participants could travel at no cost. Many buses were also fleeted on the 11th of September by the organisers of the pro-independence rally, although back then people had to pay for their transport ticket.
In fact, in the last few days, many doubts have arisen about how the SCC funds its activities, since the platform was only created in April and visibly has a great amount of resources. In response to the controversy, SCC has announced it will publish its accounts soon, although it had not given a detailed explanation about its funding scheme yet.
Furthermore, SCC has met with the Spanish Prime Minister and leader of the People's Party (PP), the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Catalan President. The main pro-independence organisations have never met with the Spanish PM and the PSOE leader.
SCC accuses those in favour of independence of being "supremacist and naïve"
The SCC President, Josep Ramon Bosch, asked the Catalan Government "to come back to the [area of] common sense". "Some people say they are in a hurry to materialise their grotesque message [of an independent Catalonia] that will make us poorer, irrelevant and less free" stated Bosch. "I am telling you that we are also in a hurry, but in a hurry for having common sense back", he added.
The Vice President of SCC, Joaquim Coll, accused those supporting self-determination of "intimidating and coercing" those against it. He also added that "thinking that Catalans, for the mere fact of being Catalans, we will do things better if we separate from the rest of Spain reflects a thought half way between supremacist and naïve".
Spanish nationalist parties also participate in the demonstration
The Catalan leader of the PP, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, asked Artur Mas "to listen to the plural Catalonia", which demonstrated in Barcelona on Spain's National Day. According to her, the Catalan President "has lost common sense and the sense of responsibility to govern". She also pledged "the law" as the way to solve the current self-determination conflict and repeated that there will not be "an illegal referendum".
The President of C's, Albert Rivera, asked Mas to recognise that he has "lied" to Catalans regarding the non-binding referendum vote on independence scheduled for the 9th of November. Rivera asked Mas to call early elections. Furthermore, the leader of the anti-Catalan nationalism party said he will work for "reconciliation" between Catalans.
The Member of the Spanish Parliament for UPyD, Toni Cantó, who was elected in Valencia, asked the Catalan President "to take note of a majority" that each time "is less of a silent and invisible majority". The MP of UPyD, which has no representation in Catalonia, said to be "proud" of participating in Barcelona's demonstration because "together we are more and better".