A bottom-up movement
The Catalan social movement working to achieve the fulfilment of the right to self-determination is a broad and inclusive, peaceful movement. Independent of political parties, it is led by civil society through organized groups and individual actions.
Millions join demonstrations
The importance of the social movement can be seen clearly in the massive demonstrations held in recent years. Two huge protest marches have taken place in Barcelona. Over one million people attended the first one, in 2010. The second, on the Catalan National Day (11th September) in 2012, gathered around 1.5 million and turned out to be one of the largest demonstrations in Europe’s history. On Catalan National Day in 2013, people held hands to form a human chain named ‘The Catalan Way towards Independence’. This connected the whole Catalan territory from north to south. Inspired by the 1989 Baltic Way, about two million Catalans took part, covering 400 km.
One year later, on 11 September 2014, another huge and peaceful event was held in Barcelona on the Catalan National Day coinciding with the tricentenary of the fall of Barcelona to the Spanish troops in 1714 and the subsequent abolition of Catalan public institutions. Organized by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), an estimated 1.8 million people filled the Diagonal and the Gran Via main streets in Barcelona, forming an 11-km-long giant V-shape, symbolizing the will of the people, voting and victory (voluntat,votar and victòria in Catalan).
Civil society organisations push politicians
‘The Catalan Way’ on 11th September 2013 was not only formed in Catalonia but also in many other locations around the world, such as New York’s Times Square, London’s Westminster area and the Great Wall of China. Groups of Catalans living and working around the globe decided to join the demonstration, many of them members of foreign branches of the Catalan National Assembly. This organization, a non-partisan movement with its origins in civil society mobilized 30,000 volunteers to organize
‘The Catalan Way’.
There are many other civil organizations collaborating in this grass-roots movement. For instance, Òmnium Cultural, created during Franco’s dictatorship to promote the Catalan language and culture, is also an active promoter of the right to self-determination.
Society-organized local referendums
Between 2009 and 2010, about 890,000 citizens participated in non-binding public consultations on independence held in 554 towns throughout Catalonia. There was no support from state institutions but instead volunteers took care of all the organizational tasks. This showed once more civil society’s capability to organize events like these and people’s increasing will for an official referendum to be held.