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Tens of Thousands March in Brussels in Support of Catalonia


VPro-independence Catalan supporters gather to begin a demonstration near the EU quarter in Brussels on Thursday , Dec. 7, 2017. Thousands of Pro-Catalan supporters rallied in Brussels on Thursday, two weeks before Spanish regional elections.

Tens of thousands of pro-Catalonia demonstrators marched in Brussels in a show of support for ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, while also calling on the European Union to support the region's bid for independence from Spain.

Chanting "Wake up, Europe" more than 45,000 protesters, many of whom traveled to Belgium from Spain, marched Thursday through the European quarter of the Belgian capital, according to police estimates.

Over a month after Catalonia voted for independence from Spain in a referendum, the region, which for years was relatively autonomous, has seen little support from the European Union, which said the matter should be internally discussed in Spain.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont speaks to pro-Catalan supporters during a demonstration near the EU quarter in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont speaks to pro-Catalan supporters during a demonstration near the EU quarter in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.

Protesters Thursday also showed their support for ousted leader Carles Puigdemont, who along with four former ministers fled to Brussels in November, saying they wanted to take their cause to the European level after Madrid charged them with sedition and rebellion.

"Is there any place in the world that holds demonstrations like this to support criminals?" Puigdemont said, addressing the crowd amid chants of "President! President!".

"So maybe we are not criminals. Maybe we are democrats," he added.

A pro-Catalan supporter holds a banner during a demonstration near the EU quarter in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
A pro-Catalan supporter holds a banner during a demonstration near the EU quarter in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.

On Monday, the Spanish government dropped a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and his four colleagues, but the former president said he would stay in Brussels for now, as the four would still face arrest in Spain should they return for regional polls that Madrid has scheduled for December 21.

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