HUNDREDS of thousands of pro-independence supporters will take to the streets of Barcelona today, to mark La Diada, the national day of Catalonia.

This year’s procession will be a more highly charged affair than usual, coming five days after the Catalan assembly passed legislation to hold an independence referendum on October 1, and four days after the Spanish government ruled that vote unconstitutional.

By Friday, Spain’s civil guard were raiding printers looking for voting papers and ballot boxes. On Saturday they stormed the premises of El Vallenc, a local newspaper, looking for referendum materials.

Loading article content

Editor Francesc Fàbregas was taken and questioned by officers.

Independence supporters quickly arrived at the office, carrying flags, flowers, and their own ballot boxes to offer the guards. Speaking outside the civil guard station after his released, Fàbregas said: “Today has been one of the most difficult days in the 29 years we have been publishing this local and regional weekly.

“To see so many people who love you and stand by you with their support is very nice. To see that you are not alone, that is the important thing.”

The paper’s editor was being charged with contempt, misuse of public funds and abuse of authority. They are the same three charges Spain’s public prosecutor’s office filed against the First Minister of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, and his entire cabinet.

Puigdemont said: “[The civil guard are] not looking for ballot papers, they are looking for trouble.”

This was, he added, “operation provocation”, the fruit of desperation and impotence from political opponents who believe the independence movement is a “soufflé” – risen on the back of the economy crashing and liable to collapse in on itself.

However, Madrid’s threats have not dimmed the enthusiasm of the pro-independence demonstrators.

Today’s march, will, if all goes according to plan, bring the city to a halt, as organised protesters will line up where the streets of Aragó and Paseo de Gràcia meet. The idea is to make a giant cross, similar to the mark a voter would make on a ballot paper.

Jordi Sanchez, the president of the Catalan National Assembly, told ElNacional: “We are convinced that people will live up to the moment. The referendum now no longer depends on the government: it depends on the people.”

However, Barcelona itself may not host a vote.

Though the vast majority of Catalonia’s mayors have said they will help to facilitate the referendum, allowing polling places to be used, Barcelona’s Ada Colau pushed back.

Colau is not against the people of her city getting a vote, and wants it to happen, but will not order her civil servants to facilitate the process of holding and running a referendum if doing so could leave them open to criminal charges.

At the end of last week, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariona Rajoy told a meeting of mayors from his People’s Party: “I will do everything necessary for there to be no referendum, because it’s my obligation”.

Meanwhile, the Catalan National Assembly of Scotland celebrated Catalan National Day on Saturday and will show its support to the region’s independence movement ahead of the October 1 vote.