Police in the Belgian capital estimates that around 45 000 people attended the rally where ousted Regional President Carles Puigedemont addressed a huge crowd on the European commission’s failure to act against the Spanish government.
Independence supporters flooded Brussels on Thursday morning chanting in train carriages and on station platforms, as well as in the Brussels metro system.
Many were draped in Catalan flags, with some carrying placards criticising the European Union for not putting pressure on Madrid. Others wore yellow in support of jailed separatist leaders. Puigedemont himself is likely to be detained if he returns to Spain.
Puigedemont switched to French addressing the marchers in a direct message to EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker. “Is there any place in the world that holds demonstrations like this to support criminals?” he said. “So maybe we are not criminals. Maybe we are democrats.”
Supporters marched through the European quarter of Brussels on Thursday in support of Catalan independence. The demonstration was held in the wake of Puigdemont calling for the Catalan people to vote on EU membership.
Puigdemont, despite international pressure, held a referendum on the 1st October on whether Catalonia should secede from Spain – a vote deemed illegal by Spain’s constitutional court.
The European Commission sided with Spain against the region in the dispute, saying it would not interfere in Spain’s internal politics.
Fresh elections are to be held on 21 December after Spain dissolved the regional government and imposed direct rule at the end of October.
Spain’s supreme court withdrew an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont this week to secure Spanish jurisdiction, leaving the Catalan leader without an international legal stage to drive an independence campaign.
Puigdemont signalled on Wednesday that he would remain in Belgium for the time being.
— CNEWS (@CNEWS) December 7, 2017