BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Police in Barcelona intervened Sunday to keep a group of Catalan separatists away from participants in a march supporting more teaching of Spanish in local schools and the greater cause of Spanish unity.
Police formed a barrier to keep people on both sides from reaching the opposing crowd when the separatists rallied in a square where the pro-unity marchers planned to finish. There were no reported incidents of violence.
“They let the separatists take over the square and we couldn’t enter. People are angry,” Gloria Lago, an organizer with grassroots group Hablamos Espanol, (We Speak Spanish), told Catalan television TV3.
Many of the 1,000 marchers waved Spanish flags and chanted “We are not fascists, We are Spaniards!” and “Don’t be fooled, Catalonia is Spain!”
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Meanwhile, supporters of the region’s independence from Spain held a banner that read, “We defend the language.” Catalan is the main language in the northeastern region’s schools.
Both Spanish and Catalan are spoken by the 7.5 million residents in the bilingual region.
Last year, Catalonia’s separatist-led Parliament issued an illegal and ineffective declaration of independence. Its leaders are currently pushing Spain’ central government to authorize an official referendum on secession.
Polls and election results show the region is roughly equally divided on the secession question.