Some 450,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday, local police said, after Spain moved to dismiss Catalonia’s regional government to thwart its leaders’ independence bid.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was among the huge crowds filling the streets around the Paseo de Gracia boulevard, with many chanting “independence” and “freedom”.
The demonstration was originally called to protest against the detention of two influential separatist activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, who are being held on sedition charges accused of instigating protests in the run-up to Catalonia’s banned independence referendum on October 1.
But Saturday’s move by Madrid to seize powers from the semi-autonomous region which could include taking control of its police force and replacing its public media chiefs was on the minds of many in the crowds.
“I feel totally outraged and extremely sad,” said Meritxell Agut, a 22-year-old bank worker.
“They’ve trampled on our rights and our ideas as Catalans,” she said, adding: “They can destroy everything they want but we’ll keep on fighting.”