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According to a poll released Sunday, parties against an independent Catalonia lead by a small margin.
Feelings ran high in Sant Jaume Square in front of the Catalan government’s headquarters after the march finished. Flag-waving demonstrators taunted and insulted members of the local police known as “Mossos,” and chanted “Where were you on the first of October” — a reference to the fact that the force did not step in to stop the referendum earlier this month.
Angry protesters also blocked about a dozen police vans from entering the square. Elsewhere scuffles broke out between regional police and demonstrators.
“They are a political police force,” said Ruben Bear. The 43-year-old lawyer said this was the first demonstration he had attended. “This is a disgrace — who are they representing?”
The Mossos are widely seen to have divided loyalties, and Madrid has fired their chief.
Again and again, marchers mentioned that Catalan society had changed and fractured along political lines, with friendships and families irreparably affected.
“I have friends I no longer speak to,” said Virginia Lozano, a massage therapist. “The reality is that the damage to the society has been really big.”
About a mile from the chanting, singing and politics, tourists lined up to get into the soaring Sagrada Familia — a visionary church by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi that is an international emblem of the city. There wasn’t a flag in sight.
But Victor Partida, a 47-year-old cab driver waiting outside couldn’t shake the dispute going on downtown.
In one month he said he’d seen business go down by around 20 percent, which meant that he had been forced to drive 12 hours a day.
“We’re entering the hard season — when the cruise ships stop coming for the winter,” said Parida, a Catalan who supports remaining part of Spain.
But his real worry was that the tensions between pro-independence and unionists would only worsen and hurt people like him who just needed to make a living.
“The guy in the middle — not a Catalanist, or a radical Spaniard — is stuck,” the 47-year-old said.
He recalled a darker time when he was a boy and people who wore Madrid or Spain t-shirts could get beaten up on the street.
“Now in Barcelona there are areas where you’ll get in trouble if you don’t believe in independence,” Partida added. “I just pray to God this does not get worse.”