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Nearly one week after Spanish police tried to violently shut down Catalonia’s vote to become independent from the country, thousands of people rallied in Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday in a more peaceful show of support and opposition.
People who were wearing white were backing the slogan, “Shall we talk?” which Jordi Cuixart, president of one of the one of the grassroots groups driving Catalonia’s separatist movement, told the Guardian was a call to Spanish politicians.
People attend a demonstration in favour of dialogue in a square in Barcelona, Spain, October 7, 2017. Photo by Eric Gaillard/Reuters
“There has to be a commitment to dialogue,” Cuixart said. “We will continue to demand a commitment that the referendum law be fulfilled.”
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has denied requests for mediation, vowing to block independence, which could signal more ruptures to come in the European Union. Thousands of supporters of the union counter-protested the sea of white with Spanish flags.
People take part in a pro-union demonstration in Madrid, Spain, October 7, 2017. Photo by Sergio Perez/Reuters
The demonstration was a much more peaceful scene than what happened on Oct. 1, when 90 percent of Catalans who voted in an outlawed referendum favored secession from Spain. There was a 43 percent turnout.
READ MORE: What happened with Catalonia’s vote for independence — and what’s next
Spanish police tried to sabotage the vote by raiding polling stations, beating voters and firing rubber bullets into the crowds. The Catalan government said hundreds of people were injured. Spain’s government representative in Catalonia apologized on Friday, but still blamed Catalonia for the unrest.
Spanish Civil Guard officers break through a door at a polling station for the banned independence referendum where Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was supposed to vote in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain October 1, 2017. Photo by Juan Medina/Retuers
Spanish police scuffle with a man outside a polling station for the banned independence referendum in Tarragona, Spain, October 1, 2017. Photo by David Gonzalez/Reuters
Catalonia, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, is a prosperous region in northeastern Spain with its own language and culture and a population of about 7.5 million. Barcelona is its capital.
People wave Spain´s flag at a pro-union demonstration in Madrid, October 7, 2017. Photo by Javier Barbancho/Reuters
It has its own parliament and is autonomous, but the national government oversees areas of security such as immigration, the airports and the ports.
And while it has long sought independence, the most recent push came after a Spanish court overturned an agreement that gave it more autonomy in 2010 amid a global economic downturn.
People take part in a demonstration in favour of dialogue to resolve Catalonia´s bid for independence, in Madrid, Spain, October 7, 2017. Photo by Sergio Perez/Reuters
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who took office in 2011, posed the referendum in defiance of Spanish law at the risk of losing autonomy.
In an interview with the BBC following the police violence, he said, “I think we’ve won the right to be heard, but what I find harder to understand is this indifference – or absolute lack of interest – in understanding what is happening here. They’ve never wanted to listen to us.”
Kamala Kelkar works on investigative projects at PBS NewsHour Weekend. She has been a journalist for a decade, reporting from Oakland, India, Alaska and now New York.
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