Human rights, democracy and freedom
Institutional events on Catalonia's National Day focus on universal rights, honoring strong women such as Rosa Parks, Anna Politkóvskaia and Neus Català
Freedom. That is what most participants in today's big demonstration in Barcelona will call for, and that was exactly the 'motto' of Catalonia's National Day institutional event, celebrated yesterday evening. Hours before hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flood the streets, authorities and members of the civil society honored defenders of human rights, democracy and freedom from all around the world.
Civil rights icon Rosa Parks, Russian journalist Anna Politkóvskaia and Holocaust victim Neus Català were some of the brave women honored in the event, which also included special recognition for LGTBI groups and refugees. One of the most emotional moments of the night was the minute of silence in honor of the victims of the August 17 Barcelona and Cambrils terrorist attacks.
The institutional event started at 10 pm, when President Carles Puigdemont and Parliament president Carme Forcadell chaired the review of the Catalan police honor guard and the raising of the national flag. The symbolic venue chosen for the event, the 'Born Centre Cultural,' is a space of memory directly linked to the year 1714, when Catalan sovereignty was lost. In fact, September 11, Catalonia’s National Day, doesn’t commemorate a victory, but a defeat: this is the day Barcelona fell to the Spanish Bourbon troops after a long and painful siege.
The institutional event, directed by Josep Maria Mestres, was a performance representing universal rights. Celebrated were the concepts of freedom of conscience and thinking, and freedom of opinion and expression. Basic human rights were also pivotal in the event, such as the right to life, the right to not be discriminated against due to racial, sexual, social or economic reasons. Also highlighted were the rights to free movement and residence, the right to education, health, culture and housing, the right to work and to a fair salary, and the rights of children. This also included collective rights, such as the right to self-determination.
Actors and actresses interpreted some of the most historical instances in defense of human rights, such as Rosa Parks' decision not to give up her bus seat to a white boy, or the fight of the suffragettes that had to defy the status-quo to achieve their right to vote. The story of the Catalan Holocaust survivor Neus Català was also explained to the public, as well as the courage of Russian journalist Anna Politkóvskaia, killed for her ideas and reporting in 2006. One of the actors also reminded the audience that EU member states have failed to resettle up to 120,000 refugees that are currently trapped in Greek and Italian camps. The event additionally recalled the "long list" of attacks against the Catalan language and culture over the years.
Up to 1,200 people took part in the event, while hundreds more followed it live from outside the venue. The institutional commemoration of Catalonia's National Day comes only 20 days before the October 1 referendum, and the pre-vote atmosphere was obvious amongst attendees, with many chanting “independence” and “we will vote!”