The conservative opposition Popular Party and the centre-right Citizens party organised the rally, which was also backed by the upstart Vox and other marginal parties.
The opposition center-right and far-right parties called the rally, seeking to make a show of force against Sanchez by capitalizing on anger with Catalonia's separatist leaders and the government's efforts to establish a dialogue with them.
"The time of Mr Sanchez's government is over", said Popular Party president Pablo Casado, who asked voters to punish Mr Sanchez's Spanish Socialist Workers' Party in upcoming European, local and regional elections in May.
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The government is squeezed on both sides of the Catalan issue: Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said on Friday the talks were on track to fail because Catalan pro-independence groups had rejected the government's proposed framework.
The political tensions come as a highly sensitive trial at Spain's Supreme Court starts tomorrow for 12 Catalan separatists who face charges, including rebellion, for their roles in a failed secession attempt in 2017. Rajoy proved incapable of stopping support for secession from swelling in Catalonia to roughly half of the northeastern region's voters.
"And what I am doing now as prime minister, always respecting the constitution, is to solve a national crisis to which the Popular Party has contributed", Sanchez said.
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Campaigners for Catalan independence regained power in Barcelona in May previous year after being under direct rule by Madrid for seven months. He met twice with Catalan chief Quim Torra.
Conservative parties called the rally after Sanchez's government last week accepted the presence - as requested by Catalan separatists - of an independent "rapporteur" in future talks. The Socialist leader holds just a quarter of the seats in parliament and relies on backing from anti-austerity party Podemos, Catalan nationalists and other small parties to pass laws. That prompted an outcry from the opposition, which accused Sanchez of giving in to pressure from the separatists, whose votes he will need to pass a crucial budget plan next week.
If Mr Sanchez is unable to approve his budget, he could call elections before his term is over in 2020.
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