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100,000 march for Catalan independence

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People wave their "Esteladas" (Catalonian separatist flag) flags during a Catalan pro-independence demonstration at Catalunya square in Barcelona. Reuters

People wave their "Esteladas" (Catalonian separatist flag) flags during a Catalan pro-independence demonstration at Catalunya square in Barcelona. Reuters

A man with an "Estelada" (Catalonian separatist flag) painted on his face shouts during a Catalan pro-independence demonstration at Catalunya square in Barcelona Photo: REUTERS/Albert Gea

A man with an "Estelada" (Catalonian separatist flag) painted on his face shouts during a Catalan pro-independence demonstration at Catalunya square in Barcelona Photo: REUTERS/Albert Gea

Catalan pro-independence demonstrators gather at Catalunya square during a rally in Barcelona. Reuters

Catalan pro-independence demonstrators gather at Catalunya square during a rally in Barcelona. Reuters

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People wave their "Esteladas" (Catalonian separatist flag) flags during a Catalan pro-independence demonstration at Catalunya square in Barcelona. Reuters

Tens of thousands of Catalans crowded central Barcelona yesterday, calling for early regional elections after plans for a November 9 referendum on independence from Spain were declared illegal.

People waved the red-and-yellow Catalan independence flag, and bore banners reading "Now is the time" and "We are ready".

Some in the separatist movement want Catalonia's leader Artur Mas to call early regional elections as a proxy vote on secession, a move likely to benefit the more radical independence party ERC, a coalition partner of Mas's CiU party.

"President, call elections, we want to vote in the next three months. We want to start in the spring of 2015 with a new parliament," said Carme Forcadell, head of the pro-independence National Catalan Assembly.

More than 100,000 people attended the demonstration.

Mr Mas said he had dropped plans to hold a referendum on independence, but would instead hold a "consultation of citizens" with ballots and ballot boxes that would be legal.

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