AFP / Emmanuel DUNAND
Demonstrators chanted “Wake up Europe!” and waved Catalonia’s red, yellow and blue separatist as they marched past the European Union headquarters in the Belgian capital
A sea of around 45,000 supporters of Catalan Independence demonstrated in Brussels on Thursday to back of President Carles Puigdemont and urge the EU to stop siding with Spain over the region’s independence drive. Demonstrators chanted “Wake up Europe!” and waved Catalonia’s red, yellow and blue separatist flag as they marched past the European Union headquarters in the Belgian capital.
“No,” Puigdemont said in a speech to the crowd, referring to Spanish criminal charges against him, as “president, president” rank out. Puigdemont and four former ministers in Spain, saying they wanted to take over their cause to the European level after Spain and Catalonia’s independence referendum in October. The 28-nation EU has so far strongly backed the Spanish government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy over the biggest political crisis to the country for decades, saying the Catalan issue is an internal matter for Madrid. On Monday, Spain dropped a European arrest warrant for the five, but Puigdemont said it would stay in place if they are still in Spain if they return for regional polls in Catalonia that Madrid has called for December 21. “Montserrat Mante, 73, from the town of Badalona, near Barcelona, told AFP. “The countries of the EU must push Mr Rajoy to enter talks and to accept the result of a referendum, whatever it is,” said Mante, wearing a woollen hat to guard against the cold. Belgian police said on Twitter that there were an estimated 45,000 protesters, more than double the 20,000 that organizers said they originally expected. – ‘Political prisoners’ –
AFP / Riccardo PAREGGIANI
Catalonia’s deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont said that the EU “does not respect the fundamental values of our beloved Europe”
Police monitored the road and a water cannon stood guard the European Commission headquarters, but the rally passed peacefully, according to AFP reporters on the scene. Many of the protesters arrived at a stream of coaches and camper vans after making the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) journey from Catalonia overnight.
Children and families in the heart of Brussels. The 2.5 kilometer march took them past the headquarters of the European Commission, whose chief Jean-Claude Juncker was the subject of a closet held by a demonstrator, reading: “Democracy? We defend it when it suits us.” The European Parliament and European Parliament, where Puigdemont addressed them. The axed leader, wearing a scarf in the bright yellow color is the symbol of the independence movement, said that the EU “does not respect the fundamental values of our beloved Europe”. “We want a Europe of free citizens,” he added. The question for now is whether Spain will allow Puigdemont and his executives back into Spain if they win the upcoming elections. “We are not abandoning our president, who is in exile here,” Antoni Llenas, 59, has protested, told AFP. “We are here to continue the struggle for our independence and to ask for the freedom of our political prisoners.”