Thoughts from Arc de Triomf Just Before Puigdemont’s Expected Declaration of the Catalan Republic on October 10th
On the afternoon of Tuesday October 10th, a few hours before Carles Puigdemont’s expected Declaration of Independence, I went down to Passeig de Lluís Companys, which was being prepared to house large crowds that evening.
I wondered what kind of language he’d use use in his statement and doubted that he’d use the words “Unilateral” or “Independence” but instead would prefer “Sovereignty” and “the Catalan Republic”. He would also reiterate the importance of Catalan law and the results of the referendum and that he is simply following the will of the Catalan people. He would deliberately mince his words because he was fully aware that the only way forward for Catalonia was to persuade an international actor, such as the EU, to mediate between the two sides.
I suspected that the Spanish government really wanted to interpret anything said as a full declaration of independence so that they could invoke Article 155, react with violence and suspend the Catalan autonomy.
I walked through the Arc de Triomf down Passeig de Lluís Companys and once again the farmers had come in from the countryside and there were a hundred or so tractors, most of which had esteladas flying from them. There were relatively few people as yet but there definitely was an atmosphere of expectation.
Carles Puigdemont was in a difficult position. He couldn’t really back down because his most diehard supporters, the people who would congregate on Passeig de Lluís Companys later on, were hoping for a full-blown Declaration of Independence. He needed to phrase what he said in such a way as to keep his supporters happy and leave the door open to international mediation. The best way to do this would be to make the Spanish look as unreasonable as possible without provoking their ire and the invocation of Article 155.
There were two massive screens about halfway down the Passeig. It was clear that massive crowds were expected. I was aware that I’d get a better understanding of what was going on.
Even though it was still early, the difference in the way the Catalans and Spanish do things was obvious. The unionist demonstrations a few days earlier had been boisterous and noisy with a mainly festive atmosphere but plenty of insults and occasional outbursts of violence. There was no doubt that this rally would be a lot more orderly affair, emotional but restrained and impeccably polite at all times.
Overlooking Passeig de Lluìs Companys is the Palau de Justicia, the Palace of Justice, which is the seat of the Tribunal Superior de Catalunya, the Catalan High Court. It was now being policed by Spanish National Police and might well be where the Catalan politicians would be brought should the Spanish government decide to make mass arrests.
Further up the Passeig, a group of stewards was receiving instructions from an ANC organiser with a megaphone. He was stressing that there needed to be order and that everything needed to be peaceful, civilised and good.humoured.
As the days went by, particularly after the unionist rally, it was becoming increasingly clear to me that the only way forward was international mediation and an agreed binding referendum. Catalan society was obviously split and if Spain continued with its bully boy tactics, this would end very badly.
I walked back through Arc de Triomf and up Passeig de Sant Joan towards home.