Catalans celebrate their national day, La Diada, with tens of thousands marching through the streets of Barcelona. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Barcelona geared up on Friday (September 11) to welcome hundreds of thousands who packed its streets to call for Catalonia to break away from Spain, two weeks before a regional election seen as a "make-or-break" moment for the independence movement. Close to 500,000 people registered to form a white "human mosaic" symbolizing a blank page and the new country they hope to build after the Sept. 27 election, portrayed by local authorities as a proxy vote on secession. The demonstration took place on Catalonia's national day - or "Diada" - which this year also marks the launch of the official political campaign in the northeastern region, which accounts for nearly one fifth of Spain's output and population. All Catalan traditions play a role during the Diada and hundreds of people take part in the many different events. In downtown Barcelona, many tourists bumped into what looked like a jump to the past, as soldiers from dressed in uniforms from the 17th century swore their loyalty to the Catalan flag. They represented the "Miquelets", irregular mountain light troops that were active during the Catalan secessionist revolt of 1640 and then became part of the Army of Catalonia. A closely-watched poll on Thursday (September 10) suggested the struggle over Catalan independence was set to intensify as separatist parties appeared on track to achieve the slimmest of majorities in seats in the regional parliament although they would fall well short of 50 percent of the vote. While any outcome, positive or negative, is set to shake up further Spain's political agenda ahead of a December general election, a separatist victory is highly unlikely to translate into outright secession. If pro-independence parties win at least 68 seats in the 135-member Catalan parliament they would trigger a "road map" to secession and a Catalan state within 18 months. But a failure to achieve a majority of votes and seats would deal a serious blow to the movement, which has been losing steam since a symbolic referendum on independence last year.