CONCERTS, com-munal meals, parties and politics are all staples of September 11 in Catalonia – La Diada, or National Day, which was originally held to mark the anniversary of the recapture of Barcelona by French (Bourbon) forces in 1714.

It also saw the beginning of the suppression of Catalonia’s independent institutions which were replaced by Castilian bodies, but in modern times it was proclaimed a special day in one of the first acts of the restored autonomous Government of Catalonia (Generalitat) in December 1979.

READ MORE: Catalan President: we will not be provoked into National Day violence

The day came to represent the memories of the loss of liberties that happened in 1714 after the siege of Barcelona. It also signalled resistance to oppression and hope of recovery.

This year’s Diada is being held under the slogan “Let’s make the Republic of Catalonia” and has a special significance for those involved in the politics of this wealthy, independence-leaning region, coming as it does with nine pro-independence politicians, including former ministers and cultural leaders, still imprisoned awaiting trial for their roles in last October’s independence referendum, and with seven still in exile in Europe.

Among them deposed president Carles Puigdemont in Belgium and St Andrews academic and former Catalan education minister Clara Ponsati, in Scotland.

More than 300,000 people have registered for the main event – a gathering along Avinguda Diagonal, one of Barcelona’s broadest avenues that cuts diagonally through the city. As many as a million people are expected to gather for a wave of protest against the continued detentions and a call for Catalan self-determination.

Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish PM, has ordered extra state police into Barcelona for the event, provoking bitter memories of the action taken by Mariano Rajoy to try to stop the referendum.

However, organisers say they will not be provoked and that La Diada will remain a peaceful protest.

Laura Masvidal will be there, but will leave the talking to others. Her husband, former interior minister Joaquim Forn, has been locked up since November and, even now he has been moved from Madrid to a penitentiary nearer home, she says his detention makes life difficult.

She told the Sunday National: “It’s been stressful, not just because of Joaquim’s imprisonment but also everything else that’s happening, the impact of the whole situation. Because he has been in prison for so long I am starting to feel the stress physically, not only emotionally and mentally, but physically too.

“To snatch the head of the family has a brutal impact for the entire family environment. That is why preventive or on-remand jails are only justified in very extreme cases, which is not the case here.’’

Forn won widespread praise – along with former Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero – for his handling of the aftermath of August’s terror attacks in Barcelona, and Masvidal said the importance of this year’s La Diada would not be missed.

“It has had great significance since last August because there were the terrorist attacks as well. Joaquim was the interior minister so it started last August and now it’s been a month full of emotions.

“It’s been really difficult, not only because of the responsibility he had during the attacks but also because the repression is on the whole government.

And she says the forthcoming trial – whenever that might be – will be a political one.

“It’s clearly a political trial and we don’t have the documentation we need for the defence of Joaquim and the others.”

Masvidal is wary of Sanchez’s move to draft in extra police, “not because anything will happen but they are looking for any excuse to change the narrative and say we are violent”.

“They are trying to provoke people,” she says. “They have tested us many times in the past year but we have not failed to remain peaceful. They’re trying to justify their lies that we are violent but people will not fall for it.

“In this way they could justify a crime that doesn’t exist. If there’s violence they can say ‘you see, there’s a crime.’”

Omnium Cultural came into being in Francoist Spain in 1961 to promote Catalan culture and a language which had been banned. It has since developed into a pro-independence body, or more specifically one which supports the Catalans’ right to self-determination.

Journalist Marcel Mauri, a vice-president and spokesperson for Omnium, told us the National Day, like all other acts it was involved with, would remain “peaceful and vindicating”.

“We do not know how to do it or want to do it in any other way,” he said. “The big difference is that for the first time in democracy in Spain there is the leader of a cultural entity such as Omnium [Jordi Cuixart] – an organisation persecuted by the Franco regime and currently with 125,000 members – in prison to defend the right to protest.

“Moreover, we have members of the former Catalan government also in jail and in exile, not to mention the over 1000 people, especially mayors, persecuted for allowing a peaceful referendum.

“Despite the [police] violence of October 1, despite the imprisonment and repression, the yearning for people to go out on the streets this September 11 will be the same: to find a political and democratic solution so that Catalonia can decide its future in freedom at the polls.”

He says the pro-independence movement has been organising demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people for years without incident, and he maintains they will not be provoked this year.

Mauri adds that Europe’s inaction over Catalonia could prove damaging in future: “The process against the sovereign leaders is a direct attack on the democratic values of Europe… That is why we want to look to Europe, to the whole European society (not only to its leaders) to ask them not to look elsewhere in the face of the injustice we live in.”

The last word goes to Masvidal, waiting for her husband: “I won’t be speaking at La Diada. The organisers will, along with [lawyers] Ben Emmerson and Aamer Anwar [Pansati’s lawyer in Scotland], but we will take part. I want to say thanks to you and to the whole of Scotland for what you have done to keep the prisoners’ profile and the Catalan cause in people’s minds.”