WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange believes the upcoming Catalonia independence referendum will create “a new 7.5 million nation or civil war” as over one million pro-independence activists marched through the streets of Barcelona in support of independence from Spain.
The Spanish region will hold a vote on October 1 on whether to declare independence from Madrid – a ballot the national government in Madrid has declared illegal and attempted to block in the courts.
The Express reports: Yesterday marked the ‘Diada’, Catalonia’s national day, which commemorates the fall of Barcelona to Spain in 1714 and is traditionally used by pro-independence activists to call for secession from the rest of the Mediterranean country.
But with less than three weeks to go before the controversial referendum, this year’s celebrations were particularly fervent.
Barcelona police estimated the crowd to be around one million people took part, one of the highest turnouts in recent years.
Demonstrators climbed on each thers’ shoulders to form human towers, a Catalan tradition, while others carried banners reading ‘We’re going to be a free country!‘ and ‘Full of hope‘ while wearing fluorescent yellow t-shirts with the word ‘yes‘.
Mr Assange, who remains ensconced in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, despite a sex assault investigation being dropped by Swedish police, tweeted videos and images from the yesterday’s rally.
He wrote: ”If today is a guide on Oct 1 Europe will birth a new 7.5m nation or civil war.”
Earlier he had rebuked Spanish authorities for arresting pro-independence demonstrators and raiding print shops suspected of preparing material in support of the vote.
Accompanied by the famous 1989 ‘Tank Man’ picture of a Chinese citizen standing in front of a row of armoured vehicles in Tiananmen Square, Mr Assange said: “Spain, this will not work in Catalonia.
“The Catalan people have a right to self-determination. Arrests only unify and strengthen them.“
He then added: “I have no position on independence itself – but in a democracy a populous region such as Catalonia or Scotland has the right to a referendum.“
The Constitutional Court last Thursday suspended the referendum after a legal challenge by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Police have since searched newspaper offices and printers for signs of any preparation for the referendum.
The head of Catalonia’s regional government, Carles Puigdemont, told journalists on Monday: “It’s not an option that the referendum won’t go ahead. It’s 20 days away and we’ve already overcome many hurdles.“