October 27, 2019 / 3:38 PM / 16 days ago

Catalonia divided: Barcelona hosts unionist rally a day after separatist march

Spanish unionist and Catalan separatist protestors are divided by riot police during a demonstration at Sant Jaume square in Barcelona, Spain, October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Albert Gea

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Huge crowds of Catalans supporting continued union with Spain marched through Barcelona on Sunday, a day after the city hosted two pro-independence protests - highlighting deep political faultlines within the region.

Police said Sunday’s peaceful rally drew 80,000 while organisers Societat Civil Catalana, a pro-unity umbrella group, put the turnout at 400,000.

“Unlike the separatists, we neither want nor need frontiers, or walls,” its leader Fernando Sanchez Costa said. Pro-independence regional government head Quim Torra should step down “if he can’t govern for all Catalans”, local newspaper La Vanguardia quoted Sanchez Costa as saying.

Some 350,000 had attended a separatist march on Saturday organised by civil rights groups, police said, hours before a second, smaller, pro-independence demonstration outside Spanish police headquarters turned violent.

Independence is highly divisive in Catalonia, with a poll in July showing 44% backing secession and 48.3% against it.

All Spain’s main political parties have rejected any moves towards Catalan independence, with only left-wing Podemos accepting the possibility of a second referendum, following one that was held in autumn 2017 despite being declared illegal.

Nine Catalan politicians and activists were this month sentenced to long prison terms over their roles in that failed independence bid..

Reporting by John Stonestreet; Editing by Dale Hudson

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