PROTESTS: Thousands of flag waving citizens gathered in Madrid against Catalan independence

  • PROTESTS: Thousands of flag waving citizens gathered in Madrid against Catalan independence

PROTESTS: Thousands of flag waving citizens gathered in Madrid against Catalan independence

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Spanish capital Madrid on Sunday to protest against a government plan aimed easing tensions with Catalonia. They are reportedly viewing Sanchez's proposal as succumbing to the pressure of those who have called for Catalonian independence.

Centre-right wing parties Popular Party and Ciudadanos organised Sunday's protest, and the newly emerged far-right party Vox also participated. The rally was called by opposition center-right and right-wing parties, following the efforts of the government, led by Socialist PM Pedro Sanchez, to establish a dialog with Catalan separatists.

The protest took place two days before the start of the trial of 12 Catalan independence leaders, who face up to 25 years in prison on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds for their role in a failed secession bid from Spain that they are accused of spearheading in 2017. We want #EleccionesYa (Elections Now) and go to the polls, Sánchez cheated us by mounting a motion of censure and not calling elections # UnidosPorEspaña, " Ciudadanos, or the Citizens party quoted its President Albert Rivera as saying at the rally.

Sanchez inherited the Catalan conflict from former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the then-leader of the Popular Party.

Around 45,000 people attended, officials said.

"The government of Spain is working for the unity of Spain", he told a party rally in the northern city of Santander.

His minority government last week agreed to allow an independent rapporteur - as requested by Catalan separatists - to attend future talks with pro-independence parties.

"And what I am doing now as prime minister, always respecting the constitution, is to solve a national crisis to which the Popular Party has contributed", Sanchez said.

Despite the government's concession, Catalan separatist parties still refused to back the government's 2019 budget and both sides on Friday called off their talks, with each side blaming the other for ending their dialogue. If Sanchez is unable to approve his budget, he could call elections before his term is over in 2020.

Spain will hold municipal, regional and European Parliament elections in May.

Ana Puente, a 73 year-old retiree, said she was protesting for a "united Spain".