Demonstrators wave 'Estaladas' (pro-independence Catalan flags) and sing the Catalan national anthem as they gather during a pro-independence demonstration, on September 11, 2016, in Barcelona. (AFP photo)
People have attended mass demonstrations in major cities of Catalonia in a bid to call for independence from Spain.
Tens of thousands gathered in Barcelona and other cities on Sunday to attend the rally, which began at 17:14 local time (1514 GMT).
The demonstrators in Barcelona assembled in the Ciutadella park, most of them draped in blue, red and yellow separatist banners while holding huge cardboard signs to simulate the beating of a giant heart.
The rally, which had seen 340,000 people sign up to join, coincided with Catalonia's national day, the “Diada.” The day is celebrated each year to commemorate the loss of Catalan autonomy, which came after Spain's King Philip V conquered Barcelona following a 13-month siege in 1714.
“We have to move towards the final outcome. We can't wait any longer,” said a 58-year-old man who took part in the rally in Barcelona with a friend.
The head of the regional government of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, said before the rallies that this year's Diada was of utmost significance to the wealthy northeastern region as a rift has emerged among separatist parties in their drive to gain independence in mid-2017.
Puigdemont said political parties have to make critical decisions regarding Catalonia's future in the coming months, adding that pro-independence leaders have to sort out their differences if they want to see the objective realized next year.
The separatist push hit a snag in June when Puigdemont's coalition government, which comprised majority-holding secessionist parties in the regional parliament, lost the support of the tiny anti-capitalist CUP, a party known for its hard line on independence. That cost the coalition its clear majority and the plan to achieve independence in mid-2017 was undermined.
Many believe that separatist parties could use the rally on Sunday to close their ranks and revive the ambitions of the campaign.
A confidence vote will be held on September 28 in which Puigdemont will try to fortify his mandate through gaining the support of parties like CUP. Reports say CUP and others want assurances that Puigdemont will call an independence referendum in 2017.

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