Catalan separatists have held their first major mass gathering since the start of the pandemic in Barcelona.
The march, on the Catalan National Day, offers a display of unity despite some divisions within their ranks over upcoming talks with the Spanish government.
Tens of thousands waved pro-independence flags and wore T-shirts with messages for their cause in the Catalan capital.
People used face masks for the event, which went ahead after regional authorities dropped restrictions on the number of people who could gather with Covid-19 cases dropping.
There was a brief clash when a large crowd pelted a police station with toilet paper, rubbish and other objects before scuffling with National Police officers.
That prompted Catalan police in riot vans to roll in and clear them out.
The meeting between representatives of the Catalan and central governments does not have a date yet, but it is expected to take place soon.
This second meeting between the two sides is supposed to advance negotiations toward finding a solution to the political crisis that has festered since the failed 2017 bid by Catalan’s secessionists to force a breakaway.
Expectations remain extremely low for a quick fix because the Catalan separatists demand an authorised referendum on independence.
The central government said a vote would have to be on a proposal to improve the relationship of the north-east region with the rest of Spain.
Catalonia’s voters have for several years been roughly equally divided over the secession question, with half in favour and half wanting to remain in Spain.
The difference of opinion within the separatist camp on the usefulness of the negotiations marked Saturday’s rally.
Catalan regional president Pere Aragones and his Republic Left of Catalonia party defended the negotiations with Spain’s government.
“Catalonia is on the brink of doing something that it has never achieved before: opening a negotiation with the Spanish state, government to government, to tackle how we resolve this conflict,” Mr Aragones said.
“And we do so with the commitment from both sides that the result of this negotiation will be put to the Catalan citizenry for a vote.”
The other two main pro-secession parties and the movement’s leading grassroots groups, however, see the negotiations at best as a waste of time, and at worst a betrayal of the mandate for independence that they claim to already have from the illegal referendum held four years ago that most unionists boycotted.
The National Catalan Assembly, the powerful group that organised Saturday’s rally, sees the talks as a ruse to defuse their momentum.
The official slogan of the rally is: “Fight and We Will Win Independence”.
Jordi Sanchez, the general secretary of Together for Catalonia, also sees the talks as futile.
“We are deeply sceptical of the attitude of the Spanish government and the outcome of this negotiation,” he said.
Mr Sanchez is one of nine high-profile separatists who were pardoned in June by Spain’s left-wing government led by prime minister Pedro Sanchez for their roles in instigating the failed breakaway attempt.
“Let the spirit of reunion, mutual affection and concord be our guides on this (Catalan holiday),” the Spanish leader said in a message on Twitter written in Catalan.
“We are advancing toward that which unites us.”
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