Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the Catalan government’s decision to push for independence, as Spain’s prime minister warned that he was prepared to suspend the region’s autonomy to stop it splitting from the rest of the country. Sunday’s rally – organised by Societat Civil Catalana, the region’s main pro-unity organisation – comes a week after the independence referendum that has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in four decades. The march, whose slogan is “Let’s recover our common sense”, was intended to call for a new phase of dialogue with the rest of Spain and featured such luminaries as the Nobel-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and Josep Borrell, former president of the European parliament. Societat Civil Catalana said more than 1 million people had taken part, but Barcelona police put the turnout at 350,000.
The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is under growing pressure to stop short of declaring independence. The political uncertainty has already led some businesses – including Spain’s third-largest bank – to move their bases from Catalonia.
According to the Catalan government, 90% of participants voted for independence in the referendum, 7.8% voted against and almost 2% of ballot papers were left blank.
Puigdemont is due to appear in the Catalan parliament on Tuesday to “report on the current political situation” and to put the referendum results to MPs.