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Catalans march to assert nationhood
More than a million rally in support of self-rule statute challenged by Spanish court.
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2010 20:44 GMT
The statute was approved by the Spanish parliament and endorsed by Catalans in a 2006 referendum [AFP]

Hundreds of thousands of people have marched in Barcelona in support of the Catalan region's statute of autonomy after it was challenged by a constitutional court.

Saturday's protest in the northeastern Spanish city was in response to a June 28 ruling stating that the term "nation" defining Catalonia had no legal value because the constitution only knows one nation, Spain.

The statute, approved by the Spanish parliament and endorsed by Catalan voters in a 2006 referendum, gave the regional parliament enhanced powers in taxation and judicial matters as well as more control over airports, ports and immigration.

The court in June approved most of Catalonia's statute of autonomy but changed some of the most controversial points.

Protesters were preceded by a huge Catalan flag with the slogan "we are a nation, we decide ourselves" while thousands of red and yellow Catalan banners were visible among the huge crowd.

Huge turnout

Manuel Campillo, a city government spokesman, said police had counted 1.1
million people at the rally that filled Barcelona's Gran Via, Diagonal and Paseo de Gracia boulevards.

Omnium Cultural, the rally organisers, calculated attendance at 1.5 million, spokesman Daniel Jove said.

Jove said about 1,400 Catalan organisations, including political parties, trade unions as well as cultural and business associations, had called on members to gather.

"This demonstration is the start of independence that we want for our country [Catalonia]" one student told AFP news agency.

The statute has the support of the vast majority of political parties in Catalonia, where a sizeable minority would like to see the wealthy region, which has its own language and distinct culture, break away from Spain. 

It was one of the first initiatives of the socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister, which took office in 2004.

But since then there has been heated debate in which conservative and liberal judges disagreed over whether the charter went beyond the limits of Spain's system of granting varying degrees of self-rule to its 17 regions.

Catalonia is home to around seven million of Spain's population of some 47 million, and accounts for 25 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Source:
Agencies
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