Protesters rally against Catalan independence in Barcelona

Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators packed central Barcelona on Sunday to rally against plans by separatist leaders to declare Catalonia independent following a banned secession referendum.
Catalans calling themselves a “silent majority” opposed to leaving Spain broke their silence after a week of mounting anxiety over the country’s worst political crisis in a generation.
The crowd waved both Spanish and Catalan flags and chanted “Viva Espana! Viva Catalonia!” as they made their way through the streets of Barcelona under a clear blue sky.
“We have perhaps been silent too long,” Alejandro Marcos, 44, said.
“It seems that the one who yells the most wins the argument. So we have to raise our voices and say loud and clear that we do not want independence.”
Around 350,000 people attended the rally, municipal police said, while organisers put turnout at between 930,000 and 950,000.
Some protesters called for the region’s separatist president Carles Puigdemont to go to jail for holding a vote on independence in defiance of the Spanish government and courts.
“The unity of Spain cannot be voted on or negotiated — it must be defended,” read one sign in the crowd.
Rajoy’s stern warning: Recent polls had indicated that Catalans are split on independence, though leaders said police violence during the referendum turned many against the state authorities.
City police said 700,000 people joined a pro-independence protest in Barcelona two days after the vote.
On Saturday tens of thousands of demonstrators, many dressed in white, hit the streets of Madrid and other cities across Spain to demand dialogue to end the dispute.
On the eve of the rally, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy issued a stern warning to Catalan leaders who have said they could declare independence this week.
He did not rule out moving to stop that by suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy — a move that could risk sparking unrest. — AFP

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