“Barcelona was a sea of red and yellow Catalan flags as more than 1.5 million people brought the city to a standstill on Tuesday at a mass rally called to demand independence for the Spanish region.
The planned route was already filled with demonstrators before the march began, in what marked a watershed for the hitherto marginal independence movement.
At least one train and more than 1,000 coaches had been chartered to bring supporters to the march.
Long-standing resentment about what Catalans see as their unfairly high contribution to central government has been inflamed by Spain’s economic woes. Polls published on Tuesday show support for independence running at 46.4%, twice as high as in 2008, when the financial crisis began.
The upsurge in support for secession has caught Catalonia’s nationalist CiU government on the hop. CiU, which has governed Catalonia for 25 of the 33 years since democracy was restored, has never aspired to independence, preferring to wring more autonomy out of minority governments in Madrid.”