Some 600,000 people, according to local police figures, filled central Barcelona around Espanya Square on Wednesday evening for the annual pro-independence demonstration on Catalonia’s National Day. At 3pm on Wednesday, the police began to close some of Barcelona’s main roads as thousands of people began arriving in the Catalan capital for what has become an annual demonstration in support of self-determination for Catalonia.

Speaking to the media at the demonstration, president Quim Torra called it “a huge success” and said it marked the end of an era: “Today one era ends and the response to the sentences [of Catalan political prisoners] begins”, he said. Torra was also critical of “interested” commentators who predicted a small turnout for the protest because “they did not want it to be a success,” and pointed to the thousands of demonstrators, saying “the people of Catalonia always deliver.”

With the rally’s peak moment at 17.14 – 1714 being the year when Catalonia lost its sovereignty – the focal point for the demonstration, Espanya square, was full of people in blue t-shirts with the motto: Objectiu independència (Objective independence).

Seven years later

“I’m a bit sad that after seven years we are still here. I thought that by now we should have moved ahead with it,” a demonstrator named Montse told Catalan News, adding: “if they [Catalan leaders] receive a guilty verdict, it means they can send anyone to jail.”

Another one of the demonstrators, Ares, said: “There are lots and lots of people here from many places, and I think that Spain is really scared of us. They won’t say that, but yes, they are scared.”

Jordi had come all the way from the Canary Islands: “I got here yesterday, I’m just here today,” he said, adding, “I’m not happy with the situation in Spain over the last few years and I believe the independence of Catalonia gives us a chance of building a new country.”