Saturday’s massive protest in Barcelona comes days after disruptive strike in Catalonia.
Spain’s High Court has remanded eight politicians for their role in passing a declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament in October, and two leaders of Catalan independence associations have been jailed for their role in earlier protests.
“There must be united clamor, we want those who are in prison back home […] no bars or exiles can dissuade us,” said former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in a video message to the protestors. Puigdemont is currently in Brussels, and a Belgian judge is currently processing a European arrest warrant that Spain issued against him.
Saturday’s protest, which is one of the biggest pro-independence demonstartions in recent months, comes after a general strike and mobilizations on Wednesday throughout Catalonia, in which protesters blocked highways and major railway lines.
These protests have been calling for the release of Catalonia’s “political prisoners”, however that term has been disputed both nationally and internationally. Last week Amnesty International Spain said that those currently behind bars are not prisoners of conscience as the agency does not use the term political prisoner.
“The members of the government are not considered prisoners of conscience because they are accused of actions that could be a crime,” said the organization.
A recent survey suggests that Spanish citizens’ attitudes towards the jailing of the leaders is split by region. In all of Spain, 62 percent of the total population think Puigdemont should be imprisoned, whereas only 33 percent agree with that statement in Catalonia, suggests a survey conducted by the INVYMARK polling agency for Spanish broadcaster La Sexta.
Saturday’s protests also acted somewhat as a campaign appearance by the ousted Catalan leader, and messages were read from other politicians behind bars who also look set to run to be the next Catalan president in the upcoming Dec. 21 regional election.