‘I Am Spanish’: Thousands in Barcelona Protest a Push for Independence

 In World

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy echoed that sentiment in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País published late Saturday, in which he said flatly that the secession of Catalonia “won’t happen” and that he was “not ruling out anything” to maintain Spain’s integrity, including a constitutional article that allows him to disband the regional leadership and assume its powers.

“We are talking about our nation’s unity,” he said.

Mr. Puigdemont is expected to address the regional Parliament on Tuesday, when Catalan leaders could declare independence, citing the results of a referendum that the national government and the courts had said was illegal and ordered suspended.

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The rally also served as a coming-out party of sorts for the national flag, which has long been associated with nostalgia for the Franco dictatorship.

Credit
David Ramos/Getty Images

The rally on Sunday was organized to show that the referendum, which attracted international attention for a police crackdown that left hundreds injured, did not represent all Catalans. They are, in fact, deeply split over independence.

Drivers flying Spanish flags from their windows blasted staccato beeps of their horns in support of people wearing Spanish flags over their shoulders like capes. As helicopters hovered overhead, a river of supporters of Spanish unity snaked from Urquinaona Square down Via Laietana and past the city’s cathedral to its historic train station, where politicians read manifestoes in favor of a united Spain.

Along the way, thousands chanted, “Long Live Spain, Long Live Catalonia,” “I am Spanish, I am Spanish,” and “Puigdemont to Prison.” They waved Spanish, Catalan and European Union flags and wore stickers of all three on their chests.

The rally — estimated by the police at 350,000 people, though organizers said it was twice that — also served as a coming-out party of sorts for the national flag, which for decades has carried a stigma associated with the far-right groups nostalgic for the Franco dictatorship.

“Everyone thinks waving the Spanish flag means we are right wing or fascists,” said Alfredo Matías, 47, who held one edge of an oversize Spanish flag. “But we are not. We are just patriotic. It should be like the flag in America. And this is a big opportunity to make that happen.”

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