It’s a typical early Sunday afternoon. My girlfriend and I are sat on our Rambla taking a coffee and passively taking in the smoke from fellow patrons. A colourful procession of locals are taking a stroll and enjoying the sun. Today is like any other Autumnal day in Barcelona but one thing is different: the noise. The normal buzz of urban life on a Spanish street is punctured by the tooting of horns and shouts of support as a river of motorbikes pass along Carrer Aragó heading to a mass demonstration in plaça Catalunya.
I finish my coffee and dodging the Catalans on the Rambla I cycle down in my red and yellow “Ara És L’hora” – “The Time Is Now” t-shirt. I clasp myself onto the motor led procession and head west to the centre of the city.
It’s a three mile ride and I join a throng of at least three thousand motorbikes surely snaking back all the way from the plaça. Almost every motorbike is flying the Catalan bandana and as the only pedal powered form of transport in this procession I settle on flying the flag for cyclists.
“Movements” become more than just the word and more than just words when by their sheer numbers, they start to stop traffic, stymie conversations and suck in bystanders. Over 110,000 say the police (link in Catalan) have gathered at plaça Catalunya, which now resembles one massive Catalan flag with almost every person in red or yellow. It’s not just people. It’s dogs. It’s cars. It’s the two colours from the stage, from the metro stations and from the roof tops. It’s two thirds of the traffic lights.
I watch the big screen from a far, taking pictures, occasionally clapping and less occasional picking out words in Catalan, all the while trying to avoid skelping people with the pedals of my bike. Despite my poor grasp of the language and my bike I feel part of this movement.
The subtleties will always be lost on a non native but as a Scot still feeling the stab of sorrow a month after the no vote in Scotland I connect with this struggle more than most.
It’s easy to get carried away and carried along, to clap and to raise your hand with the pronounced shape of the “V” for victory as you merge into a gallimaufry of people doing the same. This is what real movements do they compel and command involvement and those calls are answered by those bystanders and supporters from a distance.
If taking part in this demonstration shows me one thing it is that Catalunya moves to a different beat than Scotland. With over 100,000 gathering in a main square it beats at least ten times the frequency.
Scotland you’ve got to catch up: remember movement can be both forwards and backwards, so let’s make sure we go in the right direction. Let’s do it with a force that only numbers can amass. Scotland get active. With a Westminster election next year the Catalans tell us: “Ara És L’hora”