Police and protesters clashed this Saturday in Barcelona, for the fifth consecutive night, as part of the protests in defense of the rapper Pablo Hasél, imprisoned this week, which took thousands of people to the streets of the country.
The altercations broke out on Tuesday night in Catalonia, hours after the imprisonment of Pablo Hasél, 32, sentenced to nine months for tweets in which he insulted the monarchy and the police and praised people involved in terrorist crimes .
Since then, demonstrations have been held every night, which have led to riots with the police, first in the region of Catalonia (northeast), from which Hasél is a native, which ended up spreading to Madrid and other places.
Thousands of protesters began to gather at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT) in Barcelona, but clashes broke out when they began to march towards the police stations. “I think Spain is taking a very worrying repressive drift, not only because of the Hasél case, but there are already many such cases,” said Avi Pérez, a 25-year-old temporarily unemployed hotel worker.
“Violence cannot be defended, but it is also true that purely peaceful protest has not got us anywhere either,” he added. Most of the concentrates in Barcelona were young, although older citizens also attended.
For Josep María Arnal, a 69-year-old retiree, the case of Pablo Hasél “is the tip of the iceberg.” “Behind there is a much greater problem of freedom of expression, job insecurity, problems of access to housing, which takes youth to the limit,” he denounced.
“I do not know Hasél, rap has caught me older, but it is not a question of whether I like him or not, he is free to say it and not end up behind bars, that should be freedom of expression,” he stressed.
At night, protesters threw bottles, cans and firecrackers at the officers, who charged them, an AFP correspondent observed. Others went to Paseo de Gracia, a major commercial avenue, and looted stores such as Nike, Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss and Diesel.
They also attacked the Barcelona Stock Exchange building and set fire to several motorcycles. The regional police, the “Mossos d’Esquadra”, indicated that 11 people were arrested throughout Catalonia, 8 in Barcelona. According to emergency services in the region, the protests left six injured, including two in Barcelona.
Differences in government
In Madrid, some 400 people gathered before a large police presence in the center of the city, singing and applauding. “Pablo Hasél, freedom!” they shouted, while a helicopter flew over the area. At least 17 police vans were deployed in the central Gran Vía.
In the afternoon, hundreds of people demonstrated in Malaga, Córdoba and Seville, in the south of the country, local media reported, while, in the cities of Santander and Logroño, in the north, protests were also organized, which included about one hundred participants each.
The rapper’s arrest has also fueled the debate on freedom of expression in Spain and has deepened the differences within the government coalition, between the socialists, of President Pedro Sánchez, and the Podemos party (radical left).
To date, more than 100 people have been arrested in the framework of these protests, and hundreds have been injured in the clashes, including many police officers and a young woman who lost an eye after being hit by a foam projectile (bullets of a rubber-like material) released by the police.
Hasél, 32, was sentenced to nine months in prison for extolling terrorism in tweets in which he described King Juan Carlos I as a “mafioso”, praised people involved in attacks and accused the police of killing and torturing migrants and protesters.