Fri | Dec 15, 2017

Unionists find voice in huge Barcelona rally

Published:Monday | October 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A man holds up a sign during a march in downtown Barcelona, Spain, to protest the Catalan government's push for secession from the rest of Spain, yesterday. Sunday's rally comes a week after separatist leaders of the Catalan government held a referendum on secession that Spain's top court had suspended and the Spanish government said was illegal.

BARCELONA, Spain (AP):

Spanish unionists in Catalonia finally found their voice on Sunday, resurrecting the Spanish flag as a symbol of patriotism after decades of it being associated with the Franco dictatorship.

In a defiant challenge to plans by Catalonia's regional government to unilaterally declare independence, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Barcelona in a surprising outpouring of Spanish unity.

They chanted "Don't be fooled, Catalonia is Spain" and called for regional president Carles Puigdemont to go to prison for holding an illegal referendum last week. Some of the demonstrators took to rooftops, including families with children, and leaned over ledges from their perches overlooking the streets below to wave giant Spanish flags in a city accustomed to the prevalence of the Catalan "estelada."

Spain's red-and-yellow flag has long been taboo here in Catalonia and throughout the country because it has been linked to groups supportive of Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship. But yesterday, a sea of Spanish flags, interspersed with some Catalan and European Union flags, dominated Barcelona's boulevards.

Barcelona police said 350,000 people participated, while march organisers Societat Civil Catalana said that 930,000 people turned out. The march was peaceful and no major incidents were reported.