The Latest: Catalans demand independence on national day
Posted September 11
BARCELONA, Spain — The Latest on Catalonia's referendum on whether to break away from Spain (all times local):
The hundreds of thousands of people celebrating Catalonia's national day in Barcelona have shouted in unison: "Independencia!" (Independence).
The symbolic moment came after organizers counted down from 10 over a public address system to 5.14 p.m., which on a 24-hour clock is 1714 — the year when Catalonia lost it self-rule to Madrid.
Many Catalans want a return to self-rule by seceding from the rest of Spain. Local officials have promised a regional referendum on independence on Oct. 1, but the national government in Madrid is trying to block it. The standoff is creating deep social and political tension, but there was no sign of conflict Monday.
Many families are attending the good-humored event on a sunny day in downtown Barcelona.
Hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Barcelona's sunny streets to celebrate Catalonia's national day, which in recent years has become a rallying point for locals demanding their region's independence from Spain.
Many participants are wearing T-shirts with pro-independence slogans and carrying the pro-independence flag, known as the "estelada." It features a blue triangle and white star set over the traditional Catalan flag of red and yellow stripes.
Organizers said they expect at least 450,000 people to attend the event Monday.
The mood at the celebration is festive, with many of those attending expressing confidence that a promised referendum on secession will take place Oct. 1.
Spain's constitutional court has ordered the vote suspended and the central government is doing all it can to stop it.
Catalan officials say that mail-in voting by residents living abroad has already started in an independence referendum that Spain's central government says is illegal.
Catalonia's regional foreign affairs chief Raul Romeva says "the referendum has already started."
Romeva says that "the Catalan community that lives abroad has already started to vote." He didn't elaborate.
Catalans registered as permanently living abroad can request a ballot by mail.
Regional president Carles Puigdemont says that if the "Yes" vote wins in the Oct. 1 vote, "we will have won the right to be listened to" by the European Union.
Spain's constitutional court has suspended the Catalan referendum law and the decree calling the vote, while it considers the central government's claim that it's unconstitutional.
Hundreds of thousands are expected to rally in Barcelona to show support for an independent Catalan nation and the right to vote in a controversial referendum that has been banned by Spain.
Monday's rally falls on National Catalonia Day, which is celebrated annually. But this year, it comes amid deep social and political division over the Oct. 1 vote.
Polls show most Catalans support a referendum but are roughly divided over splitting from Spain.
Most Spaniards reject it, and Spain's constitutional court has ordered the vote suspended. But the Catalan government has vowed to hold the referendum and be bound by its result to either declare independence or call regional elections.