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Anti-independence supporters take part during a protest against Catalan secession in Barcelona, Spain, on Sept. 9, 2018.

Manu Fernandez/The Associated Press

A few thousand Spaniards marched in Barcelona on Sunday in favour of national unity and against the separatist movement in northeastern Catalonia.

The marchers cheered when residents hung Spanish flags on their balconies as they went down a central boulevard.

There was a brief moment of tension when the march met a group of around 100 separatist protesters. Both sides traded insults but police moved in between the two groups.

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The march came two days before Catalonia’s regional holiday called “La Diada,” which in recent years separatists have turned into a huge rally for their cause of breaking ties with the rest of Spain.

Some pro-union marches carried posters which call for a “Diada for everyone,” signalling what they call the exclusion of non-separatists from the public celebrations.

Catalonia’s separatist-led government is pushing Spanish authorities to allow an authorized referendum on secession.

Last year, Catalan authorities held an illegal vote on secession and issued an ineffective declaration of independence that received no international support.

Polls and recent election results indicate that the wealthy region’s 7.5 million residents are equally divided over the secession issue.

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