Photos: Thousands demonstrate in Madrid for Spanish unity

Demonstrators raise national flags as they call for Spanish unity during a gathering at Colon Square in Madrid, Spain, Decmeber 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Thousands of people waving Spanish flags rallied in Madrid on Saturday in support of national unity and against Catalonia’s ongoing campaign to secede from Spain.

The Catalan secession crisis and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s decision to take a more conciliatory tone with pro-independence parties, whose votes are crucial to the legislative agenda of his minority government, has angered many conservatives in Spain.

Protesters carried signs reading “Stop Sanchez. Elections now!” at the protest in Madrid’s central Plaza Colon.

Among those to address the crowd was Santiago Abascal, whose far-right, anti-immigrant Vox party is predicted to win its first seats in a Spanish parliament in regional elections in Andalusia on Sunday.

“We are here for our country and but also against something too: a legal but illegitimate government supported by the enemies of Spain, those who organised a coup d’etat in Catalonia,” Abascal told the crowd.

Sanchez came to power earlier this year with the support of Catalan nationalist parties who voted with him in a no confidence motion against former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose conservative People’s Party (PP) was embroiled in a corruption scandal.