Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, read a manifesto in favor of a referendum on Catalan independence at a rally on Sunday. ‘We appeal to all democrats – in Europe and around the world – to stand by us in defending the rights that are under threat today in Catalonia, such as freedom of political expression,’ Guardiola said in front of the 30,000 people who had gathered under the motto ‘Referendum is democracy’ at the emblematic Montjuïc fountains in Barcelona. Civil and municipality organizations had called on the citizens to show their support for the referendum, planned for October 1 and which the central government has vowed to stop at all costs. Guardiola also reminded the crowd about Spain’s actions against the self-determination process in Catalonia, such as the conspiracy to destroy the Catalan health system or the judicial prosecution of elected representatives, which he said were unworthy of a twenty-first-century European democracy. ‘This scandalous political situation can only be answered with more democracy,’ the renowned former FC Barcelona coach said. Numerous speakers of the different entities also defended that ‘the only possible answer is to vote’.
In front of a huge banner reading ‘Love democracy’, the renowned Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, read a manifesto in Catalan, Spanish, and English to a crowd of more than 30,000 people, according to local police. ‘We have tried to reach an agreement 18 times and the answer has always been ‘no’. We all know about the attempts to destroy the Catalan school system, a foundation of social cohesion, the blockage on investments in our infrastructures. An interior minister who conspires to destroy our health system, political police units that fabricate false evidence against our political leaders, even our civil servants and business people are being pressured by prosecution and police. This scandalous political situation can only be responded to with more democracy,’ Guardiola said to the crowd and concluded that there was no other solution for Catalonia, the only possible answer was to vote.
The Catalan government had announced on Friday that the referendum on Catalan independence is set for October 1 this year. The Catalan people will be called to answer the question ‘Do you want Catalonia to be an independent country in the form of a republic?’ The Spanish government immediately responded that a referendum not permitted by the constitution will not take place and that the executive was prepared to do everything within its power to avoid such a vote.
However, the commitment to hold the vote on October 1 was confirmed once more by representatives of several institutions and organizations during Sunday’s demonstration. ‘There is no plan B,’ said the President of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, in statements to the press. The spokesperson of the Catalan government, Neus Munté, underscored the driving force behind the referendum, which made it impossible to stop the vote. The spokesperson of the anti-capitalist CUP, Eulalia Reguant, confirmed that after the announcement of the date and question, it was now important to take further steps such as putting legal guarantees on the table to make sure everyone had the right to vote and that the vote was transparent.
Aware of a very likely confrontation with the Spain’s central institutions, the pro-independence organizations had called on citizens to show their unconditional commitment with the Catalan institutions and the celebration of the referendum on October 1 at the demonstration. In comments to the CNA, Eudald Calvo, mayor of Argentona and vice president of the Association of Municipalities in favor of Independence (AMI which comprises 800 out of 948 municipalities, said the referendum was necessary in order to count the votes in favor of an independent State. Asked about the approximately 400 legal claims presented against pro-independence town halls and municipality representatives, Calvo said that the town halls were prepared to calmly withstand the mounting judicial pressure.
Jaume Massons, member of the biggest cultural pro-independence organization, Omnium Cultural, defended that the aim was to come to an agreement on the referendum with the Spanish Government, but that that had not been possible in the end. Massons said a good turnout was necessary with a unilateral referendum in order to achieve international recognition. Alfred Bosch, head of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left in Barcelona, underlined the importance of a high turnout for the October 1 vote and confirmed in statements to the CNA that his party will put all of its effort into achieving this objective. ‘We will also try to encourage those who are against independence to go to vote. We are speaking with all those parties in favor of democracy.’
In the same line as most speakers during the demonstration, Bosch also expressed the Catalans’ pro-European stance and called on European support. ‘All Europeans and European parties should support peace-loving, democratic people,’ said Bosch. ‘Europe will be on the side of those who want to decide freely and without looking for any conflict,’ he added.
Montse Daban, international coordinator of the Catalan National Assembly, the biggest grassroots organization and co-organizer of the demonstration, highlighted the pragmatic approach of the European Institutions when facing new situations. ‘Europe always has adapted. I am convinced the vote will be finally accepted, as well as the result,’ she concluded.
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