To protest Spain’s direct rule of Catalonia, more than 40,000 people rallied in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao in the Basque Country, a region that has its own separatist movement which for decades turned bloody.

According to the regional paper Naiz, some 44,000 took part in the rally, which was organised by several Basque Country pro-independence groups, the ultra-left party Podemos’ regional branch and several labour unions.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the Basque region has seen decades of violence by the paramilitary group ETA which left some 850 dead. ETA surrendered its weapons earlier this year, effectively ending its campaign of terror, after the region won financial concessions from Madrid.

Meanwhile, organisers of the November 4 rally said they are angry at how the Madrid government imposed direct rule on Catalonia, another autonomous region in Spain’s northeast, following a move towards independence.

Some protesters carried a banner which read “No to 155. Democracy and right to decide”. The slogan is in reference to Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, which Madrid triggered last week to suspend Catalonia’s regional autonomy.

Spain also called a snap election for the region next month.