(ANTIMEDIA) — In the latest development in the global secession trend, as many as one million Catalans marched in Barcelona this week, many asserting their right to break away from Spain. Their demands come amid pushback from the Spanish government, which is attempting to block the vote as the Catalan government refuses to back down.
The Guardian reported Monday:
“For the sixth successive year, Catalonia’s national day — La Diada de Catalunya — was used as a political rally by the pro-independence movement. Organisers said 450,000 people had registered for the event, and Barcelona police later tweeted that 1 million turned up.”
As Spain’s version of The Local explained, La Diada is a holiday commemorating a famous Catalan defeat on September 11, 1714:
“The surrender marked the dissolution of autonomous Catalan institutions, the removal of Catalan as an official language and the imposition of new laws from the newly centralised Spain.”
Still, Newsweek notes, Catalonia retains its own parliament, government, and “some devolved powers.” Catalan is still a prominent language in the region.
This history helps explain why this year, the marches focused particularly on the upcoming referendum, which was planned by the Catalan government for October 1. The Spanish government has condemned the legislation authorizing the referendum.
This resistance mirrors a similar 2014 vote, as Newsweek explained:
“As in 2014, the Spanish government does not recognise Catalonia’s right to hold a referendum. It accused the region’s parliament of committing a ‘constitutional and democratic atrocity’ on Wednesday when it passed the bill calling for the referendum.”
Even Catalonia’s judicial system deemed the vote unconstitutional, with prosecutors ordering police to seize ballot boxes ahead of the vote. Supporters of the referendum have claimed the decision was political.
Though some speculate the vote won’t happen at all, Raul Romeva, Catalonia’s foreign affairs minister, says it’s already underway. “You need to remember that people are already voting,” he urged. “The Catalan community abroad is already voting. Those people who say there’ll be no referendum forget that the referendum is already under way.”
The region’s president, Carles Puigdemont, is facing a slew of charges for his hard push for the referendum and says he is prepared to go to jail over his convictions.
Though the pro-secession Catalonia leadership is steadfast in its resolve to hold the vote and break away from Spain, not all Catalans favor the move. The Guardian notes that according to a survey conducted in July, “49.4% of Catalans were against independence and 41.1% supported it.”
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, said in a speech on Monday that while he was disappointed with the Spanish government’s response to the referendum, the Catalan government’s “unilateral” push for the vote “left out half the people of Catalonia.”
Nevertheless, some Catalonians simply want their voices to be heard. “It’s not about voting yes or voting no, it’s just about being able to vote democratically,” said one La Diada attendee. “That said, I will be [a] bit sad if the no camp wins.”
The Catalan effort to break away from larger Spain is part of a larger global trend. From Brexit and Scotland’s failed independence referendum in 2014 to Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet’s fight to break away from China and various secession movements across the United States — including a push by native Hawaiians for sovereignty from the federal government — the trend toward decentralization and localization appears to be on the rise, and the movements are rooted in longstanding history.
Governments continue to vehemently oppose such efforts, and even some citizens of the regions attempting to break away are against them. However, this opposition is evidently doing little to curb drive of some individuals and groups to break free of centralized control.
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