Why thousands of people across Spain have joined nightly protests against the jailing of a rapper


Unrest broke out in Spain this week following the jailing of rapper Pablo Hasel for glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his music and on Twitter.

On Saturday, looting broke out as police and demonstrators in Barcelona clashed for a fifth night. Thousands hit the streets across the country.

Angry demonstrations first erupted on Tuesday after police detained Hasel, 32, and took him to jail to start serving a nine-month sentence in a highly contentious free speech case.

Since then, protesters have turned out every night, clashing with police in disturbances which began in Hasel’s home region of Catalonia, but have since spread to Madrid and beyond.

Pablo Hasel during a press conference in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, 1 February 2021.

EFE

On Saturday in Barcelona, protesters hurled bottles, cans and firecrackers at police, who charged at them as smoke poured into the air from burning barricades, an AFP correspondent said.

In Madrid, around 400 people gathered under a heavy police presence in the city centre, chanting and clapping.

Earlier, several hundreds had gathered in the southern cities of Malaga, Cordoba and Seville, local media reported, with another 100 protesters gathering in the northern city of Santander and a similar number in Logrono.

Some 2,000 demonstrators gathered on Friday in Barcelona for a protest that deteriorated into violence.

Hooded demonstrators hurled stones, firecrackers and bottles at police and torched barricades made of rubbish bins and restaurant chairs. At least one restaurant was also set alight.

So far, more than 100 people have been arrested in the protests over Hasel, and scores more injured in the clashes – among them, many police officers and a young woman who lost an eye after being hit by a foam round fired by police.

A demonstrator waves an independent flag in front of burning containers during demonstrations on Friday.

A demonstrator waves an independent flag in front of burning containers during demonstrations on Friday.

Sipa USA Thiago Prudncio / SOPA Images/

The clashes have also sparked a political row that has exacerbated a divide within Spain’s left-wing coalition, which groups the Socialists of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the far-left Podemos.

While the Socialists have firmly opposed the violence, Podemos’ leadership has backed the protesters.

The party emerged from the anti-austerity “Indignados” protest movement that occupied squares across Spain in 2011. Their position is that the Hasel case exposes Spain’s “democratic shortcomings”.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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