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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Gibraltar rallies around the flag
A demonstrator at Gibraltar's national day celebrations
The protest rally was a colourful event

On Gibraltar's national day, residents have demonstrated the strength of their feelings against UK plans to share the Rock's sovereignty with Spain.

"Gibraltarians we are, and British we shall stay... Gibraltar is not a wedding present."

These are just two of the thousands of slogans splashed across T-shirts, waved about on banners and shouted by the people of Gibraltar as they celebrated their national day.

Gibraltar is not Britain's to give, or Spain's to receive

Chief Minister Peter Caruana
The streets of the Rock were enveloped in a tide of red and white as an estimated 10,000 people made their way towards the central square.

Family dogs had tied to their collars glistening red balloons with the word "Gibraltar" emblazoned on them.

Toddlers with Union Jacks painted on their faces blew whistles and horns while red and white bunting fluttered between the rooftops.

But underlying the festivities was a more serious message which the people of Gibraltar wished to send out.

Under no circumstances do they want Britain to share the sovereignty of the Rock with Spain.


"We're not British, we're not Spanish," one young girl wearing a bright red tinsel wig and a Union Jack T-shirt told the BBC. "We're Gibraltarian and that's how we want to stay".

A middle-aged lady holding a "Keep Gibraltar British" campaign poster said: "We have been Gibraltarian for more than 300 years - we don't want anything to change now".

National Day celebrations
Thousands of Gibraltarians took part in the celebrations
The politicians' speeches added to the defiant mood.

"Gibraltar is not Britain's to give or Spain's to receive," Chief Minister Peter Caruana said, quoting a previous governor of Gibraltar.

Showing the depth of ill-feeling towards their treatment by the UK government, the crowd booed loudly every time Prime Minister Tony Blair or Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's names were mentioned.

Spain has never renounced its claim to complete sovereignty over Gibraltar.

That is why the people here are worried that any power-sharing deal would be the first step on the road to complete Spanish control.

Party time

As the speeches wound down, thousands of red and white balloons were released into the sky and the street party started to wind up.

Banners at rally
Most Gibraltarians are opposed to shared sovereignty
While most shops were closed for celebrating national day, pubs were open and making sure that the beer flowed freely.

With techno music blasted around the main square, the intention is to keep the party going until the small hours.

Although the UK and Spanish governments have said that the referendum on 7 November is irrelevant, the Gibraltarians say it is their democratic right and cannot be ignored.

Today they proved their determination to decide their own future.

The BBC's Claire Marshall reports from Gibraltar
"The strength of the turnout echoed the strength of the feeling"

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26 Jul 02 | Politics
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