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14 September 2017, 12:38 | Mandy Simon
GETTYNearly one million Catalans rallied in Barcelona today waving red and yellow striped flags
M - Up to a million Catalans have gathered in Barcelona to call for independence less than three weeks before the region is due to hold a vote on whether to break away from Spain, The Guardian reported.
Approximately half a million people took to the streets of Barcelona on Monday to show support for the cause of secession, with buses coming from across the region.
Since 2012 the holiday has been used by separatists to press for an independent state. Catalonia's pro-independence president Carles Puigdemont told reporters at the rally.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government is increasing the pressure to prevent an independence referendum from going ahead. He has vowed to declare independence within days if the referendum result is a yes.
Rajoy on Wednesday urged Catalans to boycott the referendum.
With Spain's central government promising to block the referendum, the pro-independence camp was keen to show that it can rally its troops - especially after participation in the "Diada" declined past year.
GETTYPresident of the Catalan Government Carles Puigdemont answers to media
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government has pledged to stop the referendum and was granted a suspension by the Constitutional Court while judges decide on its legality.
"I trust they will be left in peace and not be obliged to do what they can not", Catala told RTVE television.
Police have searched a Catalan printing house and a local weekly newspaper suspected of making ballots for the referendum, while Spain's state prosecutor has opened criminal proceedings against Puigdemont and other Catalan officials.
Spain's state prosecutor has summoned all 700-plus Catalan mayors who have backed an independence referendum, as Madrid seeks to block the separatist vote it has declared illegal. But about 70 percent wanted a referendum, to settle the question once and for all.
Many supporting the referendum argue that full sovereignty for Catalonia will benefit the region, especially amid the high unemployment rate and austerity measures that followed Spain's economic crisis, Jonathan Shafi, chairman of Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), told RT earlier this week.
Catalonia, which is roughly the size of Belgium and accounts for about one-fifth of Spain's economic output, and already has significant powers over matters such as education and healthcare.
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