The Catalan president announced Tuesday that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence, but proposed freezing its implementation to allow for dialogue with the national government in Madrid.
MADRID—Thousands of Catalans who want their region to remain in Spain marked the country’s national day Thursday, marching through Barcelona waving both Spanish and Catalan flags and shouting “I am Spanish,” as the region’s threats of independence have left the country in crisis.
Meanwhile, in the national capital Madrid, troops and police paraded in front of King Felipe VI, accompanied by national and regional politicians. Thousands of people waving Spanish flags lined the sidewalk of Madrid’s Paseo de la Castellana avenue for the military parade.
The pilot of a fighter jet taking part in the Madrid parade died when the plane crashed while landing at a base in Albacete, some 300 kilometres (200 miles) southeast of the Spanish capital, authorities said.
In Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, thousands of people marched to a central square, some with their faces in the red and yellow colours of both the Spanish and Catalan flags and shouting “Viva Espana,” or long live Spain.
“We are now feeling that years of threats by separatists have turned into an attempt to normalize social division,” said Juan Jose Garde, a 63-year-old retired civil servant who was joining a national day march for the first time after years of enjoying the holiday by taking his family to the beach.
For many others, Thursday’s march in central Barcelona was also a first.
Montse Sanchez, a 56-year-old Catalan bank clerk, said she only felt the urge to protest when the separatists’ bid recently became “an imposition of thought.”
“They want to impose on us the ideas of one, but in Catalonia we are more than one, we are many people with very different feelings toward nationality,” she said.
The slogan of the march was “Yes to Catalonia. Spain, too,” supporting Catalan autonomy, but within Spain as a whole.
Two small groups of protesters clashed as the unionists’ demonstration was getting underway, throwing chairs taken from a cafeteria terrace at each other before local police separated them.
It was unclear what sparked the violence or who was involved, but the main demonstration led by civil society groups opposing the separatist bid in Catalonia wasn’t disrupted.