Protests in Madrid and Barcelona in support of a rapper sent to prison for messages glorifying terrorism and attacking the Spanish Crown have turned violent. Demonstrators threw missiles and built barricades in both cities as gatherings demanding the rapper’s release continued to spread across Spain.
Pablo Hasel, whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla Duro, was arrested on February 16th after barricading himself in part of the University of Lleida in Catalonia. He had been expected to hand himself in over convictions for social media messages and songs which glorified terrorism and attacked the Crown. Police detained him after two hours of stand off at the University and he is now in prison. Almost immediately afterwards, protests began in parts of Catalonia with notable demonstrations in Barcelona and Lleida.
On February 17th 2021, those protests spread. As well as demonstrations in Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona, a gathering began in Madrid late in the afternoon. Hundreds of people met at the central Puerta del Sol in the capital to show their support for Hasel. Many held placards with a number bearing anti monarchy slogans including ‘’King to Prison, Rapper Free’’ and ‘’Down with royal oppression’’.
In Barcelona, some protesters built barricades which they then set fire to while rocks and bottles were thrown. As the demonstrations went on in Madrid, demonstrators continued to throw objects at police who responded with tear gas rubber bullets. Fourteen people have been arrested so far in the Spanish capital and twenty nine have been detained in Barcelona.
Politicians voiced their support for the police with the President of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, tweeting ”thank you to the police for defending peace on the streets of Madrid”.
However, a spokesperson for Unida Podemos, the junior partner in the coalition government, took a different stance. Pablo Echenique wrote of his support for ”the anti-fascist young people who are demanding justice and freedom in our streets, yesterday in Barcelona, today in the Puerta del Sol”.
In Catalonia questions were asked about the response to the first day of demonstrations where officers used foam bullets, one of which hit a protestor in the face leading to them losing an eye. Police officers are also being treated in hospital following the protests.
Pablo Hasel has been convicted several times over songs and social media messages. However, this particular instance has seen growing protests in his support as debate continues over whether the penalty for such offences is too harsh. The Spanish government said earlier this month it was looking at reducing sentences.