The Latest: Pro-Catalan supporters march in Barcelona
GIRONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on independence protests in Catalonia (all times local):
Catalan secessionists are capping a day of protests with a huge march through downtown Barcelona, the northeastern Spanish region’s capital.
The demonstrations Monday marked the first anniversary of an independence ballot that was stopped by police and failed in its bid to create a new country separate from Spain.
The evening march in warm weather has drawn tens of thousands of people and is proceeding from a central Barcelona square called Plaza Catalunya toward the Catalan regional parliament.
There, demonstrators are due to hand ballot boxes used in last October’s referendum to regional president Quim Torra, a pro-independence politician.
Opinion polls show Catalans are roughly split over the independence issue.
Spanish financial markets have taken in stride the latest calls for independence in the region of Catalonia.
In late trading, the main IBEX stock index in Madrid was trading 0.5 percent higher, in line with other indexes in Europe.
In a note, Oxford Economics noted that, despite fears of an economic calamity in the wealthy region a year ago as thousands of companies protectively moved their registered address out of Catalonia, the economic impact of the secession push was “only moderate and mostly short-lived.”
It said “a grave political crisis with potential wider implications for the European Union has been reduced to a purely domestic issue.”
It added that the “independence issue has become a low-intensity conflict that will likely continue for many years to come” and will not pose “a systemic risk” to the European financial system.
A year after the troubles in Catalonia, pro-independence protesters have targeted financial institutions they perceive as aligning themselves with Spain against Catalonia. They used metal chains to lock the doors of the Barcelona stock exchange and demonstrated outside the premises of the Bank of Spain, the country’s central bank.
Thousands of students are marching in downtown Barcelona to mark the anniversary of an independence referendum in Catalonia that was banned by Spanish authorities.
The college and high school students are walking peacefully behind a banner reading “We won’t forget, neither will we forgive” and shouting slogans in support of an independent Catalan republic.
People across Catalonia have also held a minute of silence at noon (1000 GMT; 6 a.m. EDT) to mark the anniversary and draw attention to the violence that police used to crush the vote, which had been banned by Spanish courts.
Separatist activists blocked roads and railway lines earlier on Monday. A group of them broke into the offices of the central government’s delegation in Girona and brought down Spain’s national flag.
Separatist leader Carles Puigdemont says people in Catalonia should remain united in their goal to break away from Spain, one year after a crushed secession referendum in the prosperous region.
“Let us not stray from the only possible way to live in a full democracy: the (Catalan) Republic and its international recognition,” Puigdemont said in a video message shared on social media.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium days after an independence declaration was passed in the regional Catalan parliament in late October last year. He has since then turned a Spanish Supreme Court prosecution against him into a platform for advocating for self-determination rights in Europe.
He fought off extradition from Germany, where he spent weeks in prison, and Belgium.
Catalonia’s regional government has returned to a school in northern Catalonia where police stormed in to bar people from voting in a banned independence referendum one year ago.
Student strikes, emotional speeches and mass demonstrations are planned to commemorate Monday the vote that caused Spain’s gravest political crisis in decades.
In Sant Julia de Ramis, the northern town where Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was scheduled to vote on the morning of Oct. 1, 2017, the regional separatist authorities are addressing supporters with a banner reading “We won’t forget, nor will we pardon” behind them.
A year ago, anti-riot police entered the school-turned-polling station, injuring hundreds in front of cameras broadcasting the incidents live.
Puigdemont who ended up voting in another polling station, is now sought in Spain under preliminary charges of rebellion. He has so far fought off extradition to Spain from both Germany and Belgium.
Activists advocating for Catalonia’s secession from Spain are blocking major highways, train lines and avenues across the northeastern region, one year after a banned referendum crushed by police failed to deliver an independent state.
Monday’s protests have been called on online messaging apps by the Committees for the Defense of the Republic, local activist groups that emerged after the Oct. 1, 2017, unauthorized vote.
In Girona, north of Barcelona, hundreds of activists occupied the high-speed railway tracks, while regional police tried to stop more protesters from entering the area of the station.
Local media also reported road blockages on the AP-7 highway, the main artery along eastern Catalonia leading to the French border, and in central streets of the cities of Lleida and Barcelona, the regional capital.