As has been the case on every visit of the King of Spain to Catalonia over the past few years, Felipe VI’s presence at the Barcelona Automobile fair was greeted with a few hundred pro-independence protesters outside the Fira Montjuïc venue. Largely peaceful, demonstrators cut off Plaça Espanya square to traffic, waved ‘estelada’ flags, and held banners that read ‘Catalonia does not have a king’. Two Spanish flags were burned.

Although Catalan president Pere Aragonès, of left-wing Esquerra Republicana, did not attend the inaugural event due to a parliamentary debate, he did send a representative of his pro-independence coalition government. The pro-independence movement is, by definition, republican. But discontent with the Spanish monarchy has grown following the 2017 independence push as well as numerous revelations concerning the former king’s questionable business affairs.

On 3 October 2017, two days after the referendum deemed illegal by Spain and on the day of a general strike throughout Catalonia, Felipe VI gave an unprecedented speech in which he called for unity amongst Spaniards. His decision to not mention the Spanish police violence that had taken place at polling stations on 1 October and left around 1,000 people injured angered many Catalans, who decried his statement as partisan.

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