King Felipe VI will be in Catalonia again on Monday. The Spanish monarch will visit the car manufacturer Seat, in Martorell’s industrial estate, northwest of Barcelona – and they might face protests like the last times the head of state set a foot in Catalonia.

The Catalan interim president, Pere Aragonès, rejected joining the king’s visit. “I will not take part in any event that means whitewashing the monarchy,” he said in an interview with Catalunya Ràdio station. Aragonès said that Felipe “has to give several explanations” before going for a walk in Catalonia.

The head of the Bourbon house has faced opposition in his past visits, especially ever since his famous speech on 3 October 2017, in the wake of the Catalan referendum, where he unprecedentedly sided against the independence camp.

Earlier protests

On 9 October, he took part in the Barcelona New Economy Week awards ceremony in the Catalan capital’s Estació de França station – and was greeted by protesters and a heavy police presence. On 21 July, Felipe VI visited the iconic Poblet monastery and hundreds of activists protested at around a kilometer’s distance as they were barred from approaching the religious site that had been cordoned off by police.

On 4 November 2019, the monarch attended an awards ceremony in the Catalan capital and thousands of protesters rallied around the hotel where the event was held, blocking one of the main roads in and out of Barcelona for hours. Likewise, hundreds joined a spontaneous rally on Sunday 24 February 2019 as the head of the Royal Family arrived in Barcelona to inaugurate the Mobile World Congress the following day.

Role in 2017 referendum

The polls showed a huge decrease in the popularity of the king after the autumn 2017 independence push. Felipe gave a rare speech on 3 October 2017, two days after the referendum, where he blasted the Catalan government for having organized it without authorization from Spain, but he made no mention of the 1,000 injuries caused by the Spanish police operation on 1 October.

“It is the state powers’ duty to guarantee the constitutional order and the normal functioning of institutions, the enforcement of the rule of law and Catalonia’s self-rule, based on the constitution” he said, a few weeks before the Spanish executive imposed direct rule. He accused the Catalan administration of being “irresponsible” and “putting economic stability at risk.”

The parties for a Catalan republic have rejected meetings with the king or events where he was taking part on the grounds of his “lack of apology” for the 2017 speech.

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