Pep Guardiola, FC Barcelona's former coach, will be the special guest at the rally which the ANC, Òmnium and the AMI (1) have called for this Sunday 11 June in Montjuïc. Guardiola, who was the last name on JxSí’s slate for Barcelona, will read a manifesto in favour of the referendum and the right to decide. "Without wishing to idolize him, we realise he is an important symbol", declared the ANC’s president, Jordi Sànchez.
This Wednesday the pro-independence groups held a joint press conference ahead of the event, which will involve a short walk from the entrance to the National Art Museum of Catalonia to the Montjuïc fountains. The speeches will take place before Puig i Cadalfalch’s four columns, which Sànchez described as "symbolic". According to the organisers, the event will last between an hour and an hour and a half, with "minimal" staging and it will feature speeches from the three spokespersons of the organisations involved. The presence of government officials has not been confirmed, though Sànchez announced that there will be "direct contact" shortly to confirm whether they will attend.
The grassroots groups hope that the rally will take place once the government announces the date and question for the referendum. "The rally will go ahead once the date and question have been decided", Sànchez declared, adding that the President of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont said yesterday at the meeting of the National Pact for the Referendum that he would make these issues public "soon". In this regard, Sànchez is convinced that the president will go ahead with the referendum. "I guess what we need to say is: Rajoy, don’t take our ballot boxes away".
Meanwhile, the President of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, was keen to point out that it is Spain "that is forcing us down the unilateral path by saying no to everything and refusing to talk about anything". He suggested that Sunday’s rally would serve to support the government, following its commitment to hold the referendum once a negotiated referendum with Spain has been ruled out.
Òmnium’s president denied that Catalunya en Comú is condemning the referendum to be a rerun of the 2014 non-binding vote, arguing that the organisations are not entertaining such a possibility. "Another mock ballot like on November 9 wouldn’t make sense and I don’t think anybody is seriously considering it", he stated, before reiterating that voter turnout is what will make it a binding vote. "There must be consequences the day after the vote", he said.
With regard to the CUP’s proposal that the National Pact for the Referendum ought to create a space for debate on the yes or no to independence, Sànchez declared it an "interesting" initiative. He added that the organisations must also have a role in creating such a space. The spokespersons for the three organisations also took the opportunity to make it clear that at the Pact’s meeting there was a "unanimous demand" in favour of the referendum. "There was no disagreement", Cuixart declared.
According to the organisations, the Catalan government needs to hold a referendum with guarantees, in line with calls from the Comuns’ supporters (2). However, Sànchez warned that it would not be possible to announce the guarantees until a negotiated referendum had been ruled out, though he urged the government to "provide all the necessary explanations, including in parliament" so that the voters know how the vote will work. Sànchez also warned that "we would object to the government taking a position on the answer to the referendum".
Sànchez also had something to say about the Court of Auditors’ decision to prosecute the organisers of the 9-N participatory process, following the criminal proceedings which were brought against Mas, Ortega, Rigau and Francesc Homs, banning them from holding public office. "Their only option is to play dirty and try and frighten us because democratically we’re unstoppable", he warned, criticizing the desire to "annihilate" the political leadership of the independence process. Sànchez appeared convinced that "the president will hold a vote" and that it is likely that what we will have to say is: "Rajoy, don’t take our ballot boxes away".
The pro-independence groups announced the rally for this Sunday, a few days after calling on the government to name the date and question for the referendum. "The event will be in some way a continuation of the rally on 27 May, when we called for the date and the question", admitted the president of the Associació de Municipis per la Independència, Neus Lloveras. The rally is expected to take place two or three days after Puigdemont announces the when and the what of the referendum, thus opening the door to the yes campaign with a definite timeframe.
(1) The ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana) and Òmnium Cultural are the two main pro-independence grassroots groups in Catalonia; the AMI, Associació de Municipis per la Independència is an organization of town councils with the goal of achieving independence.
(2) The Comuns (Catalan for “commons”) are the new regional left-wing political alliance “Catalonia in Common” (Catalunya en Comú) whose position on Catalan independence remains ambiguous. Barcelona mayor Ada Colau is one of their leaders.