Huge demonstrations in Barcelona for Spanish unity

Catalonia's referendum on independence returned a 90 percent vote in favour of secession from Spain

An estimated 350,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona today (Sunday) to rally against Catalan independence from Spain, waving both Spanish and Catalan flags while shouting, "Don't be fooled, Catalonia is Spain" and calling for the Catalan President's imprisonment.

She said she felt no reason to have to decide whether she was Catalan or Spanish. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, meanwhile, refused to recognize the fact that a referendum took place as well as its results.

Sporting white shirts, protesters packed Barcelona's Sant Jaume Square where the Catalan government has its presidential palace, shouting "We want to talk!" and holding signs saying "More Negotiation, Less Testosterone!" and "Talk or Resign!"

'Rulers can not continue on this path, because they are dividing us and wrapping us in flags to make us clash, something that this country does not deserve, ' said Guillermo Fernandez, one of the promoters of the initiative. "It's the moment to listen to the people who are asking for the problem to be solved through an agreement, and without precipitated and unilateral decisions".

The gathering around Madrid's Cibeles fountain boasted a huge banner demanding that the leaders start talking.

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It wasn't clear how many people might have come in from other cities.

Drivers flying Spanish flags from their windows blasted staccato beeps of their horns in support of people wearing Spanish flags over their shoulders like capes. Similar protests were also held in Valencia (south-east), and Zaragoza and Valladolid (north), among others.

Rajoy's government mobilised thousands of national police to stop Sunday's vote, leading to clashes with would-be voters as they tried to close polling stations in schools and remove ballot boxes.

Tensions between the Spanish national government and the regional government of Catalonia skyrocketed since the banned Catalan independence referendum went ahead on October 1. The separatists intend to issue a declaration of independence unilaterally. The Spanish government says 1978 constitution makes no provision for a vote on self-determination hence referendum is illegal. "Viva Catalonia!" the man called out, as the crowd cheered and joined in his chant.

Other companies are also considering such a move to ensure that Catalonia's possible secession from Spain wouldn't immediately knock them out of the European Union and its lucrative common market.

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Spain's Minister of Public Works Iñigo de la Serna said last Saturday that "the companies will keep leaving and it's exclusively the fault of the members of the regional government".

Santi Vila, Catalonia's regional chief for business, told Cadena SER Radio late Friday that he's pushing for "a new opportunity for dialogue" under "a cease-fire" with Spanish authorities.

Also read: VIDEO. Catalonia: What will happen if independence is proclaimed?

Vila added he would like to see Spanish authorities return powers to the region which they have assumed in recent weeks, including control of a large part of its finances. "It can't be in the hands of extremists, the radicals and the (far-left secessionist party) CUP", he said.

Tuesday, 18h corresponds to the time at which Carles Puigdemont, president of the Generalitat, the autonomous government of catalan, must take the floor in front of the catalan parliament. The last regional election and polls show that the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia are nearly evenly divided on the issue.

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