Some 750,000 Catalans took part in the massive protest march on Saturday, according to Barcelona police estimates. The rally was called by the two pro-independence groups, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, whose leaders were jailed last month over sedition charges.
The marchers carried Catalan flags, “Freedom for the political prisoners” placards, and photos of the jailed leaders. Many people wore and waved yellow ribbons, signifying support for those in custody. Pro-independence activists started to use the yellow ribbon late in October as a symbol of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the jailed leaders of ANC and Omnium. As evening fell, protesters turned on the lights of their mobile phones and held them high, turning the march into a sort of ‘candle-lit’ procession.
A wave of strikes and mass protests have been staged in response to Madrid’s crackdown of Catalonia, which followed the unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament on October 27. Spain triggered Article 155 of its constitution, stripping the regional government of power and imposing direct rule on the region.
The Spanish government then sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and dismissed the regional parliament, calling local snap elections for December 21. Key Catalan government and parliamentary figures were arrested, while Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers managed to leave Spain for Belgium. Madrid promptly issued a European arrest warrant and the five turned themselves into Belgian authorities. They have since been granted bail.
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