Tens of thousands of people have protested in Catalonia’s main city of Barcelona, urging Spain to release the jailed leaders of an independence movement in the region.
Protesters marched in downtown Barcelona on Saturday as they held signs that read, “Freedom Political Prisoners” in Catalan.
Reports said around 500 buses carried people from towns and villages across northeastern Spain to Barcelona to attend the major protest.
The protesters are demanding that authorities release 10 prominent members of the secessionist movement in Catalonia. The ten include lawmakers and activists who allegedly contributed to a controversial referendum of independence on October 1 and then helped the regional parliament actually declare independence from Madrid later that month. That declaration prompted a major crackdown by the Spanish government as it took over control of institutions and dismantled the regional government.
During the Saturday protest, many people wore yellow ribbons as a symbol of their demands while carrying pro-independence “estelada” flags.
“They (Spanish authorities) are violating many rights of freedom against our people and we come here to say that we are against that and to demand the release of our prisoners who are in prison unjustly,” said a protester.
Another six Catalan lawmakers were freed on bail on Thursday as investigations continue on their role in the independence push. Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers are in Belgium and await a court hearing on Spain’s request for extradition. Catalonia’s pro-independence Republic Left party said Saturday that it will nominate its jailed leader Oriol Junqueras for the snap polls called by Madrid in the region on December 21.
The political crisis in Catalonia is the harshest to hit Spain in four decades. Spain has branded the entire process of seeking independence in Catalonia illegal while no foreign government has recognized the region’s claims to such independence.