Fiercely proud of their distinct language and culture, Catalans increasingly feel they are getting a raw deal from Madrid and their president is now demanding the right to raise and spend their own taxes. (Getty)
More than a million people swamped Barcelona on Tuesday demanding independence for Catalonia from the rest of crisis-struck Spain, police said.
A human sea flooded the city, as Catalans waved red-and-yellow striped Catalan flags and marched for the region's national day, the Diada, many accusing Spain of dragging them into economic trouble.
"There are 1.5 million people and everything has gone peacefully," said a police spokesman.
Closely watched by other independent-minded regions in Europe such as Scotland and Flanders, the Catalans rallied under the slogan: "Catalonia, a new European state."
"What do the crowds want? A new European state. What do the people want? An independent Catalonia," they chanted, packing the northeastern region's capital in the warm evening.
"We are being pillaged and the money from our taxes is being lost to Madrid," said 21-year-old history student Eva Garcia.
"It's now or never," agreed retired teacher Maria Antonietta Vila, a Catalan who lives in southwestern France but returned to join the march.
About 1,000 buses ferried protesters from across the northeastern Spanish region.
Fiercely proud of their distinct language and culture, Catalans increasingly feel they are getting a raw deal from Madrid and their president is now demanding the right to raise and spend their own taxes.
Catalonia, whose economy is bigger than Portugal's, accounts for a fifth of Spanish output.
But it is being squeezed by austerity cuts and by an economic crisis that has put one in four people out of work across the country.
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