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1 Oct, 2017 01:53

French Bretons rally for own self-determination & in solidarity with Catalonia (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

French Bretons rally for own self-determination & in solidarity with Catalonia (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Several hundred pro-regional independence activists have marched through the streets of Nantes, calling for reunification with the Brittany region of France and greater autonomy from the central government in Paris.

While the city of Nantes is officially part of the Pays de la Loire region, the district is historically and culturally tied to Brittany, one of 18 French regions.

On Saturday, a rally attended by some 300 native Bretons demanded the city be incorporated into the region of Brittany, which they argued should subsequently declare its independence from the central government in Paris.

The rally was timed ahead of Sunday’s scheduled referendum in the Catalonia region of Spain. Waving Catalan and regional Brittany flags, activists marched peacefully through the streets of Nantes chanting 'Separation for Brittany' as police officers watched on.

“We are organizing a demo to show that this part of Brittany is in Brittany which is not officially recognized by France and we want to show solidarity with the Catalan movement in favor of independence and we ask to fight more here in Brittany for the right for the sovereignty of nation for all of the Brittany. From Nantes to Brest," activist Goel Roblin told RT's Ruptly video agency.

The Bretons are a Celtic people who have roots in Brittany, bordering the Normandy and Pays de la Loire regions. Their ancestors migrated from the southwest of England to France between the 4th and 6th centuries. About half a million people in Brittany and beyond consider Breton to be their native tongue.

Breton nationalism combines both political and cultural aspects. The political aspirations of Breton nationalists include the right to self-rule and to gain more power in the European Union, the United Nations, and other international institutions.

The independence call in Brittany follows similar aspirations by Catalans and Basques in Spain and the Scots in the UK. 

“We have to fight to go for word and to organize a condition to exercise on yourself the right of self-determination,” Roblin said. We want “to be able to manage our things on our own. We have the right like every small nation to be a republic and to organize a better way of life here in Brittany like the Catalans want to do,” the independence activist added.

On September 6, Catalonia’s Parliament passed a bill paving the way for an independence referendum to be held on October 1. The Spanish government, however, insists the proposed referendum is illegal, and to prevent the vote from going ahead, the central government has, among other measures, deployed police to shut voting stations and intimidate those who want to take part in the plebiscite.

LIVE UPDATES: Catalonia pushes ahead with independence referendum

Despite the Spanish government’s moves, Catalan authorities are determined to hold the referendum on Sunday. Activists have occupied dozens of schools intended to be used as polling stations to stop police from shutting it down.