Thousands of people protest with Catalonian and Spanish flags against the independence movement and the regional government's speraratist plans, in Barcelona on Sunday. (Nicolas Carvalho Ochoa/dpa/Abaca Press/TNS)

Marchers in Barcelona urge Catalonia not to secede from Spain

BARCELONA, Spain — Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Barcelona Sunday to protest Catalonia’s possible secession from Spain, in the largest show of strength to date by unionists, who usually describe themselves as the “silent majority.”

According to the Catalan Civil Society, which organized the “Enough! Let’s go back to reason” march, more than 1 million people took part. Barcelona’s local police, the Guardia Urbana, gave a 350,000 estimate.

From the morning, people draped with Spanish and anti-independence Catalan flags — which lack the white star that is present on the secessionist Catalan flag — could be heard singing “We are all Catalans,” “Only one nation” and “Puigdemont in prison.”

Carles Puigdemont is Catalonia’s regional president, and head of a secessionist coalition that organized an Oct. independence referendum that was banned by the national Constitutional Court but went ahead, despite violent Spanish police attempts to stop it.

Protesters on Sunday, some of whom arrived via bus or train from other parts of Spain, marched peacefully. They were backed by the ruling People’s Party, the pro-government Ciudadanos party, and the opposition Socialist Party.

Turnout figures were impressive, but were still lower than what was achieved by the pro-independence side in an Oct. 3 general strike, when 700,000 people took to Barcelona’s streets, according to Guardia Urbana estimates.

Several businesses, including major banks, have started moving their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, casting doubt on whether one of Spain’s wealthiest regions would risk a major capital flight if it broke off from Madrid.

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