Photo: Supporters demonstrate in Barcelona in an unprecedented show of mass support for autonomy from Madrid. (AFP: Lluis Gene)
Hundreds of thousands of Catalans have taken to the streets of Barcelona in an unprecedented show of mass support for autonomy from Madrid, blaming Spain’s economic crisis for dragging their wealthy region down.
Surging unemployment and financial disarray have stoked calls for separatism in Catalonia, a comparatively prosperous part of Spain whose political leaders say their wealth is being sucked dry by the central government.
Crowds waved red and yellow striped Catalan flags – one of the oldest still in use in Europe – and sang the Catalan anthem on a national day marking the conquest of Catalonia by Spain’s King Philip V in 1714 after a 13-month siege of Barcelona.
The regional government said the crowd was 600,000 strong. Local police gave figures as high as 1.5 million.