Pablo Hasél: Barcelona rocked by violent clashes 11 days after rapper’s arrest

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Demonstrations in Barcelona showed not waning after a rally degenerated on Saturday into clashes with the police 11 days after the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasél.

The demonstration, whose slogan was “Lluitar, crear poder popular” (“fight, create popular power” in Catalan), was held in support of the rapper who was sentenced and imprisoned for tweets attacking the Spanish monarchy and the police, but it also included other social demands.

Several hundred participants marched behind a large banner announcing “Until they fall. Nothing to lose. Everything to gain,” according to an AFP journalist.

“Pablo’s case just shows that we live in a fascist state… that we have to fight and that it is a violation of fundamental rights,” a 26-year-old musician who came to demonstrate and who did not wish to give his last name told AFP.

“Who am I to judge what he puts into his words. But for them to condemn him for that seems to me an attack on freedom of expression,” said Barbar Salazar, a 36-year-old doctor.

The rally turned violent in the early evening, resulting in acts of vandalism and the ransacking of bank branches in the city, one of which was set on fire.

Several “hooded rioters” attacked police, broke windows of “shops, and in particular banks,” tagged facades with graffiti and threw Molotov cocktails, according to several tweets from the Catalan police, who confirmed that one of their vehicles had been burnt down as had many rubbish bins or containers.

At least 10 people were arrested during the clashes, the Catalan police said on Twitter, one of whom is “involved in the burning of the van”.

In a tweet, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the “unacceptable acts of vandalism and violence that shook Barcelona last night,” giving his “full support” to the police.

Since mid-February, more than 110 demonstrators have been arrested in this north-eastern region, according to the police.

Hasél, 32, has been sentenced to nine months in prison for defending terrorism, comparing King Juan Carlos I to the “mafia,” praising people involved in terror attacks and accusing the police of killing and torturing migrants and demonstrators.

His arrest on February 16 at the University of Lleida, where he was barricaded with supporters wanting to prevent his arrest, led to protests marked by incidents in several other Spanish cities such as Madrid, Valencia and Granada.

In Barcelona, where the current social slump is most pronounced, demonstrations are almost a daily occurrence, denouncing the record youth unemployment rate in the European Union which stands at 40.2 per cent, the precariousness of the economic situation and the rise in rents.

Hasél’s imprisonment has also revived the debate on freedom of expression in Spain and reinforced the differences within the governing coalition between Sanchez’ Socialist party (PSOE) and the far left Podemos party which supports the demonstrations.