Thousands gathered in the streets of Barcelona on Sunday to express support for unity in Spain and Catalonia. Photo by Javier Etxezarreta/European Pressphoto Agency
Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Hundreds of thousands gathered in Barcelona on Sunday to call for unity and show support for the Spanish government's reaction to Catalonia's push for independence.
Attendees of the rally draped Spanish flags around their necks, held banners and chanted slogans.
The rally's official slogan was: "We are all Catalonia. Common sense for co-existence!"
Spain's government disbanded the Catalan Parliament over the weekend and dismissed local leaders, effectively seizing control of the autonomous region. Last week, the region's parliament voted for independence, which is forbidden by the Spanish Constitution.
Newly deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont called for supporters of independence to peacefully and democratically oppose Madrid's latest maneuvers.
Though Puigdemont and many of his political allies are currently out of a job, the Spanish government said all of the dismissed leaders will be eligible to run in the snap elections scheduled for December in Catalonia.
"We are giving the voice to the Catalans in a legal and free elections, not so-called referendum which is outside the law," Inigo Méndez de Vigo, a spokesman for Madrid, told VOA. "So, this is the way of telling the Catalans, if you want to vote, you have the right to vote, do it under the conditions of the law and freely."
Sunday's rally was organized by the anti-independence group Societat Civil Catalana. Group leaders said they wanted to show many Catalonians prefer to remain a part of Spain and support the political moves made by Madrid.
"We've come to give our opinion and show that part of Catalonia feels Spanish as well," Juan Montalvo, a retired 65-year-old from nearby Mataró, told the Guardian. "Catalan society is divided. We need to achieve more unity, but also to show [pro-independence Catalans] that we are 50 percent and they need to respect us like we need to respect them."
"I feel Catalan, but for me that means being Catalan inside a Spanish state," the man's son, Roger Montalvo, said.