Pro-independence supporters prepare a 400 km-long human chain on Catalonia’s National Day
Barcelona (ACN).- This coming 11th of September – which is Catalonia’s National Day – pro-independence supporters have organised the so-called ‘Catalan Way Towards Independence’ that calls for the independence from Spain. The gigantic human chain will cross Catalonia from North to South along 400 km and will pass through some of the main cities, such as Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona. The civil society platform Catalan National Assembly (ANC) is preparing this new massive demonstration after having organised last year’s 1.5 million-strong demonstration, which argued that Catalonia should become an independent state within the European Union. This year’s peculiar demonstration is inspired by the ‘Baltic Way’, which took place on the 23rd of August 1989 with two million people forming a 670 km-long human chain crossing Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The ‘Baltic Way’ requested the independence of the three Soviet Republics and was fully condemned by Moscow. However, it gathered international sympathy and has been praised on many occasions as a unique and peaceful demonstration fighting for the right to self-determination. In fact, the ‘Baltic Way’ organisers issued a manifesto that read “a common European home can only by set up if all European nations are granted a free right to self-determination”. During the weeks before 11th September, several human chains are taking place in Catalan cities and towns, but also abroad, in order to rehearse and promote the ‘Catalan Way Towards Independence’. Furthermore, those attending the main demonstration should register on a website in order for people to be effectively distributed along the 400 km chain. Three weeks before the event, more than 350,000 have already registered. On top of this, small human chains are being organised throughout the world to replicate the ‘Catalan Way’ in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Edinburgh, Los Angeles and Rome. The ANC’s President, Carme Forcadell, stated this Friday, on the 24th anniversary of the ‘Baltic Way’, that the day after the ‘Catalan Way’, the exact date and question for the self-determination vote should be announced. Many independence supporters are pushing to hold Catalonia’s self-determination vote before the end of September 2014. However, the Spanish Government totally opposes Catalonia’s independence, its self-determination, and the organisation of a vote.
“A common European home can only by set up if all European nations are granted a free right to self-determination” stated the manifesto issued on the occasion of the ‘Baltic Way’. A year ago, 1.5 million people gathered together on Barcelona’s streets to peacefully demonstrate under the motto: “Catalonia, new European state”. They were asking for a Catalan state, independent from Spain, but integrated within the European Union. The large-scale demonstration was a milestone in Catalonia’s contemporary history and certified the change of the Catalan political landscape. A significant share of Catalan society, representing around half of the population, did no longer want to participate in the collective project with Spain and was clearly supporting an independent Catalonia.
After last year’s demonstrations, elections were held and pro-independence parties won
In the weeks following last year’s demonstrations, political parties clarified their stances and most of them openly supported Catalonia’s right to self-determination, while some of them were also supporting independence. However, the Spanish Government totally opposed the idea. Elections were organised in November and a wide majority of votes were for parties supporting Catalonia’s right to self-determination. In addition, parties defending Catalonia’s independence from Spain obtained more than half the Catalan Parliament seats and significantly increased their votes.
The Spanish establishment is blocking all the Catalan demands
Accordingly, Catalan institutions intensified their petitions to organise a self-determination vote to freely and democratically decide on Catalonia’s collective future. In addition, several expert reports were pointing out to several legal ways allowing the organisation of such a vote, if there was the political will to do it. However, the Spanish Government continued opposing and downplaying all the petitions and even refused to talk about the issue. Furthermore, it has been using the Spanish State institutions to block the steps undertaken by Catalonia – also at international level – and to limit the Catalan Government’s room to manoeuvre with a tight control of its finances.
Support for independence might represent more than 50% according to polls
Far from reducing demands for independence among Catalans, polls are in fact showing that support for independence remains high and might represent more than 50% of Catalonia’s population. Additionally, the political pressure from pro-independence supporters to organise a self-determination vote as soon as possible has increased during the last few months.
Taking all this into account, the main organisation grouping of pro-independence supporters, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), decided to go one step further and not organise just a regular demonstration for the next Catalonia’s National Day. The ANC is not a political party but a grassroots platform that represents more than 400 territorial assemblies throughout Catalonia and 50 sector assemblies.
11th September 2013 at 17.14 pm
Inspired by the 'Baltic Way', the ANC launched the 'Catalan Way Towards Independence', which will take place on the 11th September around 5 pm. The Catalan Way’s climax will be at 17.14 pm, since it coincides with the year 1714, when Barcelona was became occupied by Spanish troops and Catalonia lost all its self-government institutions. From this date it started to be ruled according to Spanish law and the persecution of Catalan language and culture began in an attempt to “Hispanicise” the territory.
More than 100 preparatory human chains
In order to be ready for the Catalan Way’s day, several small human chains are taking place throughout Catalonia. For instance, for this coming weekend the ANC has organised around 20 human chains in cities such as Girona and Mataró, but also in rural areas such as the demonstration around the Pica d’Estats mountain, in the Pyrenees. In addition, human chains are also organised throughout the world in the weeks leading up to the event and also on the same day. Currently, 83 human chains have been organised at international level, in cities such as Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Hamburg, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Montevideo and Edinburgh.
Inspired by the 'Baltic Way'
The 'Baltic Way' manifesto was asking to guarantee the self-determination right to all nations of Europe, and not only to the colonies in Africa, Asia or America. It stated: “Brothers and sisters in East and West, we are prepared to forget about your double standards, if you will find in yourselves courage to demand the application of the principles of international law not only in Africa and Asia but also in Europe”. In addition, it also said: “One may close one's eyes to the Baltic problem, but it will not cease to exist. For us, it is a problem of inalienable human rights; for you, it is a problem of double standards and security, but one way or another, we have to solve it together, proceeding from the principles of international law”.
In 2009, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton stated that this initiative had turned the 23rd of August “into a milestone in the fight for self-determination”. In addition, UNESCO has included the Baltic Way in its Register of the World Memory as it was “a unique and peaceful demonstration that united three countries in their fight for freedom”.
However, despite the international sympathies, the Soviet Union criminalised the Baltic Way and totally opposed the self-determination right of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The first press release of the Soviet regime assured that if the independence leaders reached their objective, “the potential consequences would be catastrophic”. Furthermore, the Soviet Union Government stated that the human chain was representing “a serious threat for the future of the Baltic people”, who could be “pushed towards the abyss by its nationalist leaders”. In 1991, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became independent states in a peaceful way, although Lithuania had already declared its independence from the USSR one year previously.