After weeks of massive public demonstrations across Catalonia with the slogan “Catalonia is not Spain,” a major rally was held Sunday in Barcelonia, in which anti-secessionists declared that after all this, Catalonia actually is Spain.
Hundreds of thousands of unionists (350,000 according to police estimates) took to the streets waving Spanish flags and EU flags. There were, however, reports that much of the crowd was bused in from elsewhere. Participants included members of anti-secession political parties.
It shouldn’t be surprising. Catalan secession has long been a divisive issue within the region, and polls have always shown it very, very close. The overwhelming “yes” vote in last weekend’s referendum likely represented a backlash against the violent crackdowns by Spanish police in the days ahead of the vote, as well as much of the “no” crowd just not turning out.
Many unionists supported the Spanish Constitutional Court’s decision that the referendum was illegal, and didn’t vote as a result. This skewed the results even further toward the “yes” side, giving the impression of overwhelming support for Catalonia when, in reality, the public remains at least somewhat split on the issue.
How that informs Tuesday’s meeting of Catalonia’s parliament remains to be seen. It has been expected they would declare independence on Tuesday, but they are faced with threats of punishment from Spain if they try. The Sunday rally may also give them pause, though pause for what is unclear since Spain is ruling out negotiations.