Thousands of people have staged a rally in the Spanish autonomous Basque Country to support an independence vote due in the northern Spanish region of Catalonia.
Some 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets in the Basque city of San Sebastian on Saturday, expressing support for Catalonia and its planned referendum on independence from Spain, which is planned for October 1st.
The demonstrators waved the red and yellow Estelada flag used by those favoring independence in Catalonia, as well as Basque’s regional flag.
Pro-independence Basque leader Arnaldo Otegi, who was present at the march, said the rally was in solidarity with the Catalans and the “people who are giving an important example in democracy in Europe and demanding the right to self-determination to decide whether they want to be independent or not.”
“There are plenty of reasons behind this demonstration. The first is the Basque people are demanding their own sovereignty. Others are saying they just want to create a fairer society. We all say that we need our sovereignty,” he said.
Catalonia has been seeking independence from Spain for years.
It held a symbolic referendum on independence back in November 2014. The vote, which was not binding, went ahead despite fierce opposition from the central Spanish government. More than 80 percent of the 2.3 million people who cast ballots backed independence for Catalonia, according to Catalan officials.
Madrid is fiercely opposed to any independence bid by Catalonia, considering referendums on the matter illegal. Catalonia’s regional government has repeatedly attempted to gain outright independence from Spain but has failed due to division among the 7.5 million residents of the region.
A recent poll by the regional government showed that 48.5 percent opposed independence, and 44.3 percent were in favor.
The wealthy region provides almost a fifth of the Spanish economic output. The highly-industrialized region has its own language and customs.
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