Diada 2018: Catalonia celebrates national day still torn in two

At least 470,000 people — according to organizers — took heed of the call made by president of the Catalan autonomous community government Quim Torra and Asemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural platforms to gather in Barcelona on September 11th at 17:14 local time, to demand the release of detained officials who organized the separatist referendum of October 1, 2017.

Local police Guardia Urbana estimated attendance in 1 million whilst opposition party Societat Civil said only 200.000 rolled into the city to support independence, in a habitual dispute on the day’s turnout as density can appear higher with lower camera lens angles. This year the government has not disclosed their estimates. (El País, in Spanish)

Standing crowd density is commonly measured in people per square metre; generous calculations for Diada assign 2 people at the main ground areas and 3 people close to the central stage. Following this standard, the number of people in attendance at Avinguda Diagonal for the celebration should have reached a mere 360.000.

Catalonia started commemorations of its national day, Diada, on Tuesday September 11, with most opposition parties absent from institutional events and marked by the imprisonment or flight of independence leaders.

Diada yearly celebrations remember the fall of the city at the end of the Spanish war of succession in 1714. In recent years, pro-independence groups have used rallies as a show of strength. (The Guardian)

Institutional events this year began September 10 with president Torra hosting a parade through the capital, Barcelona, calling for the freedom of nine pro-independence politicians arrested and jailed after the referendum of October 1 2017. Parliament whip Roger Torrent and most government officers were in attendance. (EL PAÍS in Catalan)

  • See earlier WikiTribune stories on the pro-independence movement, the 2017 referendum, and conflict with the Spanish government

Parties supporting the union with Spain — Ciutadans, PPC, PSC and Societat Civil Catalana — also called for parallel, smaller format events. (La Vanguardia, in Spanish)

“Catalonia has just split into two parts. Don’t talk about Catalonia being an homogeneous thing,” said Spain’s foreign minister Josep Borrell to BBC’s Stephen Sackur in an interview to be aired September 11th. (BBC video)

For decades, Diada institutional events merely consisted of an institutional reception in Parliament that was not largely publicized. However, in 2004, under the presidency of Pasqual Maragall, an event was added: some 15,000 people crowded Ciutadella Park for musical performances of different sorts and the presence of most political parties. The event was repeated in 2005 and 2006, again with thousands of citizens. In 2007 President José Montilla moved it to an even larger area of ​​the Ciutadella Park so more people could be accommodated.

That year, Maragall’s departure from office (he suffers from Alzheimer’s) implied a reduction in popular support, but next year 2008 saw the turnout reach 20,000. However, the 2009 economic crisis reduced the budget for the official reception.

Diada 2011 under Artur Mas’s leadership kept the official reception at the Parliament and the cultural event in Ciutadella. One year later on September 11, 2012, everything changed: part publicly funded, single issue government support groups ANC and Òmnium Cultural seized control of the Diada and called a pro-independence demonstration that was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

Since then, the gathering has been repeated in the same fashion every year.

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