21, February 2021
Protests against the imprisonment of a Spanish rap artist have turned violent in Barcelona as thousands of demonstrators called for his release for the fifth consecutive night across Spain.
Angry protests initially began on Tuesday after police detained Pablo Hasél, and took him to prison to start serving a nine-month sentence for “glorifying terrorism” and insulting royalty in his music and on Twitter.
Since then, protesters have turned out every night, clashing with police in Hasél’s home region of Catalonia. Angry protests later began to spread to Madrid and beyond.
Police were deployed en masse, with dozens of police vans lining the streets of Madrid and Barcelona.
About 6,000 demonstrators began gathering in Barcelona early Saturday evening, and clashes broke out as they started marching towards police headquarters, according to local police.
Protesters hurled projectiles, cans and firecrackers at police, who fired foam bullets to disperse the crowd, the Catalan regional police said on Twitter.
Angry protesters attacked shops on Barcelona’s most prestigious shopping street, Passeig de Gracia, smashing windows and looting stores, according to police.
Officers arrested nine people across Catalonia, six of them in Barcelona.
Nine people were also injured, two of whom were taken to hospital.
More than 60 people have so far been arrested across Catalonia since Hasél was detained, police said.
One woman lost an eye during clashes in Barcelona, triggering calls from politicians to investigate police tactics.
Demonstrations in Madrid, however, were largely peaceful but in the northern cities of Pamplona and Lleida, police clashed with protesters.
Around 400 people gathered under a heavy police presence in Madrid clapping and chanting, “Free Pablo Hasél!”
Hasél was given the prison sentence in 2018 for “glorification of terrorism” through more than 60 tweets he published on Twitter between 2014 and 2016.
He was also fined $30,000 for insults, libel and slander for tweets about the former king Juan Carlos I and for accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and refugees.