La Diada, celebrated on September 11 is Catalonia’s National Day which commemorates the fall of Barcelona on September 11, 1714. On that day, Catalonia lost the governing institutions it had maintained since the Middle Ages. In 1716, with the Nova Planta Decree, King Philip V of Borbon abolished them and subjected Catalonia to the laws of the Spanish central power, which entailed great repression of the culture, language and traditions of the Catalans that persisted in the successive reigns and dictatorships.
The Catalan people have since commemorated that day as the day they lost their liberties and state institutions, as an example of the Catalans’ persistence and refusal to surrender in their struggle. Nowadays, the Diada has become a popular, festive day of protest, on which Catalan people massively and peacefully rally for Catalan independence. Since 2012, huge demonstrations have filled Barcelona and Catalonia’s streets, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets every year to assert their right to self-determination.
The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law. It states that a people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.
After years of massive social and political struggles, on October 1st, 2017, an independence referendum was held in Catalonia. Despite the arrest of Catalan government officials and the violence of Spanish police to suppress the voting and to seize the ballot boxes, the referendum took place with a turnout of 43%, with 90% voting “Yes”. Consequently, on October 27, the Catalan parliament voted for secession.
Since that moment, the Spanish authorities have launched a systematic campaign of repression against the Catalan people, including the persecution of more than 3,300 peaceful activists and representatives, the imprisonment of nine civil and political leaders and the obstruction by the Spanish judiciary of Catalan elected representatives taking their seats in democratic institutions, including the European Parliament. Peaceful activists and representatives have been spied on illegally with very intrusive spyware, which can create a chilling effect among Catalan society, experts have warned, and there is a current attempt to criminalise the peaceful pro-independence movement with false accusations of terrorism.
These repressive actions have a huge negative impact on fundamental rights, especially the freedoms of speech, opinion, peaceful assembly, and the right to a fair trial and liberty and security as denounced by international institutions such as the United Nation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and the Council of Europe, and NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the World Organization Against Torture, and the International Commission of Jurists, among others.
After the failure of the dialogue with Spain, Catalan citizens need to take the reins. Spain currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, and we must seize this opportunity to make a direct call on Europe to denounce the undemocratic Spanish state and to highlight that the Catalan struggle is far from over. We want the independence we voted for in 2017.
We demand greater political responsibility from the European Union: Europe must stop treating the Catalan issue as a Spanish “internal matter” and take a clear stand in the face of the political, judicial and linguistic repression by the Spanish state. It is time to move from empty words to action and confrontation, to achieve independence.
This year’s 11 September protest will be centred in the city of Barcelona, the Catalan capital. In the afternoon, four columns will start marching from four different symbolic points, representing the four fundamental values of the Catalan Republic that we are struggling to achieve – Freedom, Language, Country and Sovereignty – to converge on Plaça Espanya, popularly known as October 1st square to commemorate the 2017 Catalan independence referendum which took place on that very same day.
If you are coming from abroad, we encourage you to join the main column, ‘Country: for a better quality of life’, which will start at Plaça dels Països Catalans, in front of the Sants Estació train station.
This year, we will be happy to greet you during the entire 11th of September at the Assemblea International Meeting Point in Plaça Universitat, which will also be the Accreditation Point for the international guests who will join the head of this year’s demonstration, as well as for the international media and correspondents covering the event.