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Catalonia calls for independence from Spain

September 11, 2015

Thousands of people have gathered in Barcelona's streets to call for Catalonia to break away from Spain. The rally comes before a local election that is being seen as decisive for the regional independence movement.

Image: Getty Images/AFP/G. Julien

Thousands of people demonstrated in Barcelona on Friday on the occasion of the "Diada," Catalonia's national day.

Twitter users used the hashtag #Diada2015 to post pictures and opinions about the rally. Barcelona residents tweeted pictures of it, as well.

Pro-independence organization Barcelona International posted pictures showing protesters carrying yellow arrows that represented the movement towards freedom for Catalonia.

Around 500,000 people had put down their names for forming a human mosaic- to symbolize a blank page for the new country they hoped to build after breaking away from Spain.

Regional elections on September 27

The national day was also the day regional political parties chose to launch their campaigns for the election, scheduled in two weeks' time. Separatist parties in Catalonia said they would begin the process to establish an independent state within 18 months if they won control of the regional assembly.

"After many centuries, we have the great opportunity to vote on our democratic future, so we have to take advantage of this occasion. Only a clear 'Yes' can change things," Artur Mas, head of the regional government said. Otherwise, it wouldn't be possible to go forward with this political process with the "same intensity and energy," Mas added.

Opinion polls show pro-independence parties winning a slim majority in the elections, but the parliament may be too fragmented for them to raise a united voice.

Madrid's lingering problem

Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has fiercely opposed the attempts by Catalan leaders to convert the upcoming elections into a proxy vote for independence. He has called the idea of secession "nonsense."

His government has recently tabled a bill for an urgent reform of Spain's constitutional court to prevent a unilateral declaration of independence.

The movement gained momentum last year after the local government launched a referendum, in which only two-fifths of Catalonia's 5.5 million people participated. However, 80 percent of the participants voted for independence.

mg/kms (Reuters, AP)