The fifth night of peaceful protests against the imprisonment of a Spanish rap artist once again turned into clashes between police and members of marginalized groups who set up street barricades and smashed shop windows in Barcelona
BARCELONA, Spain – The fifth night of peaceful protests over the imprisonment of a Spanish rapper has once again turned into clashes between police and members of peripheral groups who set up street barricades and smashed shop windows in central Barcelona on Saturday night.
Police were also stoned after a march in the Catalan city of Lleida, where Hasél spent 24 hours barricading a university building before police took him to serve a 9-month prison sentence for insulting the Spanish monarchy and praising terrorist violence in his music.
Catalonia’s regional police force said there was also defiance in the city of Tarragona, where groups threw glass bottles at police lines and smashed shop windows.
Police reported at least 11 arrests since Saturday, including three minors. The worst riots took place on Barcelona’s Passeig de Gracia, the city’s most modern shopping boulevard, home to art-deco apartment buildings considered architectural treasures.
The mob stormed the streets, smashing shop windows, overturning engines and setting up barricades with metal street barriers and setting fire to garbage containers to slow down the police search. Some even took to police lines, forcing police officers to use shields to protect them from the thrown stones. Police said that they identified one “young man” for aiming a police helicopter with a laser for two hours.
After spilling out of armored vans, police swords with batons and fired foam bullets to disperse the groups.
The disturbance appears to have come to the marginal group of mostly younger people who made up a small proportion of the thousands of participants who joined the marches to support Hasél and oppose the Spanish laws that used him for prosecution.
Since Hasel’s arrest on Tuesday, about 90 people have been arrested and more than 100 injured.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau appealed for calm.
“The defense of freedom of expression in no way justifies the destruction of property, intimidation of our fellow citizens and damage to companies that have already been injured by the crisis,” which was caused by the pandemic, the mayor said.
Madrid municipal authorities said 300 National Police officers had been called in to help the city police, but a protest by several hundred people was concluded in the Spanish capital without any healing of the harassers.
The Spanish left-wing government announced last week before the arrest of Hasél that it would amend the law to abolish prison sentences for acts involving freedom of expression. He didn’t explicitly mention the rap artist or set a timeline for the changes, and his promise doesn’t seem to have done much to relieve the social tension that was brewing.