National Day of Catalonia 2022

ANC ultimatum to parties and Government: "Either independence or elections"

Demonstration brings together 700,000 people according to the Catalan National Assembly and 150,000 according to the Guardia Urbana

3 min
Thousands of prisoners demonstrating for independence in the streets of Barcelona

BarcelonaIf anyone thought that the escalation of reproaches between the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and political parties –basically Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)– would moderate during Catalonia Day, they will have been completely wrong. The most tense September 11th within the pro-independence movement has ended with a direct threat from the ANC to the Government: "Either independence or elections", its president, Dolors Feliu, demanded in front of thousands of people who demanded the Catalan government resign. The break between parties and institutions and part of pro-independence civil society has reached its highest point this Sunday, but for days now such an outcome could be foretold. Without Catalan president Pere Aragonès present nor any other representative of the ERC leadership at the ANC demonstration –Carme Forcadell was there as former president of the organisation– Feliu was critical of those who try to stop the mobilisations: "They are trying to make us few, to stop us from being heard, but we will not be silenced!"

Neither the ANC nor ERC have explicitly mentioned each other, but there were allusions by both sides. In the rally organized at noon by ERC, party leader Oriol Junqueras raised the tone to defend his strategy of negotiation with the State: "No one will silence us and we are not afraid of anyone!" Feliu seemed to respond when she said hours later that "this year the demonstration has been more frightening than ever". In the usual wrangle over figures, the organisation claimed 700,000 people turned out versus the police's estimate of 150,000 demonstrators.

A demonstration usually brings together a diversity of opinions and ideologies, but there is always a common link. In 2012, the then president of the ANC, Carme Forcadell, warned that everyone would be welcome to the mobilisation in Barcelona's Passeig de Gràcia (1.5 million people according to the Guardia Urbana), but that whoever went would be counted as pro-independence. That demonstration has been followed by ten more along the same lines, but this year's added a new angle: the ANC's call was clearly focused against political parties and institutions. And the independence movement has once again responded to the call. It is true that demonstrators with over one million participants are well behind us (the last one, in 2018, with political prisoners and exiles), but despite the lack of progress for the national cause the format does not seem exhausted.

Demonstrators at the ANC demonstration

The reading of Catalonia Day

How, then, will this year's Diada be read? For the moment, Feliu has taken the opportunity to bring up an ANC independent candidacy in the next elections: "We count on the grassroots to achieve independence. Let them not think that we are distracted or demobilised with the thinly disguised hope that we accept settling for autonomism". The vice-president of the ANC, Jordi Pesarrodona, was even more forceful when he pointed out the two paths that the entity opens to the politicians: "Either stand down or obey the mandate of the people". He is obviously referring to the mandate of the 2017 Referendum which pro-independence parties and organisations accepted then, but which five years later is causes division among political parties and also organisations.

The obvious example proving there is no shared strategy was given by Òmnium Cultural. Its president, Xavier Antich, was the last but one to speak at the afternoon demonstration, where he said the shared path between parties and organisations should continue. "This is not about looking for culprits, but seeking accomplices for independence," he said in one of the few moments the public booed (but also cheered). In the morning, during Òmnium's political event, the only one that gathered the whole pro-sovereignty movement, Antich called for of a new cycle in which new actors must be appear so the independence movement can restart after years without a strategy.

Whistles and boos

The day began with whistles and boos to all parties at the monument of Rafael Casanova. Esquerra has been the main target of the day and the Republicans have not shunned this role at any time. "Shout more" a defiant Marta Vilalta told protestors. Catalan president Aragonès said he would continue to take to the streets "every September 11th" to defend independence and committed himself to work for Catalans to decide their future in a referendum. In the afternoon, in an event organised by the pro-independence left, photographs of the meeting between Aragonès and the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, were burnt.

ERC has maintained its struggle ANC while the CUP and Junts did join the demonstration and avoided confrontation with the Assembly. Together for Catalonia (JxCat) president and former speaker Laura Borràs had already called on people to take to the streets as "an active resistance to repression" is needed. On the other hand, the head of the opposition, the Socialist Salvador Illa, linked the infighting within the pro-independence camp to government inaction: "We need a government that governs rather than fight itself".

Political parties and pro-independence organisations were not counting on the 2022 Catalonia Day would not be one to rebuild bridges between them. All predict the risk of self-destruction of the movement, but all consider that there is room to rebuild it. The test starts now.