Several thousand took to the streets in Barcelona and elsewhere for a fifth day in a row to protest the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasel.
A fifth night of peaceful protests against the imprisonment of Spanish rap artist Pablo Hasel sparked clashes again between police and members of marginalized groups who erected barricades and smashed shop windows in central Barcelona.
Small groups, mostly made up of young people, began their nightly cat-and-mouse game with officers on Saturday evening, an hour after several thousand protesters had gathered in the capital of the Catalonia region, where the worst violence has also taken place in previous demonstrations this week.
On Saturday, rioters looted shops in Barcelona’s main shopping street and then threw stones after police in riot gear poured out of delivery trucks to engage them.
Hundreds also gathered in the Spanish capital, Madrid, and hundreds more marched in the northeastern city of Lleida, where Hasel was arrested and taken away on Tuesday to serve a nine-month sentence for insulting the Spanish monarchy and allegedly glorifying “terrorism” Music.
A protester kicks a window of a shop as supporters of the arrested Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel protest in Barcelona, Spain on February 20, 2021[Albert Gea/Reuters]Around 80 people have been arrested and more than 100 people injured since Hazel was arrested.
The disturbance appears to have originated from a fringe group of mostly younger people who made up a small fraction of the thousands of participants who took part in marches to support Hazel and to defy the Spanish laws that were used to persecute him.
The Mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, asked for silence.
“Defending freedom of expression in no way justifies the destruction of property, the fear of our fellow citizens and the harm to businesses that have already been hit by the crisis,” said the mayor.
The Madrid city council announced that 300 national police officers have been called up to assist the city police.
Supporters of the arrested Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel protest in Barcelona, Spain on February 20, 2021 [Albert Gea/Reuters]On Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez denounced violent protests, saying “Violence is an attack on democracy”. The comments came after Sanchez’s junior coalition partner, far-left United We Can (Unidas Podemos), announced their support for the protesters and called for a “total pardon” from Hasel.
The rapper’s case has received a lot of public attention. Artists, celebrities and politicians have expressed their support for an amendment to the country’s so-called “gag law” which covers freedom of expression and which Hazel has been convicted of violating it.
Critics say the law restricts free assembly and contradicts the muzzles.