Conflicts & War

Incidents, arrests at several Spain protests supporting convicted rapper

Barcelona, Spain, Feb 16 (EFE).- Thousands of people demonstrated on Tuesday in cities all over Spain, where incidents and arrests were registered, to protest the arrest of Spanish rapper Pablo Hasel.

Police arrested 15 people and 33 people were injured, including 17 Catalonian police officers.

According to the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalonia police, eight people were arrested in Lleida, three in Barcelona and four in Vic.

Seventeen police officers were injured, four of them in Barcelona, two in Lleida and 11 in Vic.

In addition, emergency medical services attended to five demonstrators in Barcelona, another five in Lleida and five more in Vic, as well as one in Girona, with some of them having to be transported to local hospitals but all reportedly with relatively slight injuries.

Hasel – real name Pablo Rivadulla – and dozens of supporters had barricaded themselves inside a building at the northeastern University of Lleida to avoid his imprisonment after he was found guilty of glorifying the now-defunct Basque terrorist group Eta and slandering the royal family, the police and the court system in a series of tweets and some of his lyrical content.

The main demonstrations of support for Hasel came in the Catalonian cities of Barcelona, Lleida, Girona and Vic, and there confrontations occurred between protesters and police, with demonstrators setting fire to dumpsters, destroying other property and hurling objects at officers.

Besides Barcelona, Lleida, Girona and Vic, demonstrations were held in many other cities and towns across the northeastern Spanish autonomous region.

“Resistance,” “Pablo, comrade, we’re at your side” and “Freedom for Pablo Hasel” were some of the most-heard slogans during the demonstrations called to protest Hasel’s arrest on Tuesday morning to serve a nine-month prison sentence (reduced from an original two-year term) handed down to him, along with a nearly 30,000-euro (about $36,000) fine, by Spain’s National Court after his conviction in 2018.

In Lleida, where police arrested the rapper Tuesday morning, some 2,000 people, according to the university, and 1,400 according to the Urban Guard, launched the protest in Cathedral Square, where they read a manifesto.

The throng headed toward the seat of the Socialist Party of Catalonia in Lleida, where they threw eggs and other objects at the building’s facade and later at Sant Joan Square they splattered paint on the facade of the headquarters of the center-right Popular Party.

Several hundred people then marched to the Government Subdelegation in Lleida, where the most tension developed with demonstrators tipping over trash containers, setting some of them on fire and throwing firecrackers at several Mossos vans, injuring some officers in one of them.

In Girona, 5,000 people, according to the Mossos d’Esquadra and Urban Guard, gathered on October 1 Square and later marched through various streets toward the offices of the Generalitat, or government headquarters, and – shortly thereafter – to the court buildings.

At that point, although no violent incidents had yet broken out, members of the crowd hurled the first objects and firecrackers at police.

Ultimately, a group of demonstrators arrived at the government subdelegation, where clashes erupted during which the protesters threw more objects at police and set up a barricade with trash containers and dumpsters.

Participating in the protest in Barcelona were some 1,700 people, according to the Urban Guard.

The incidents in the Catalonian capital came when protesters headed to the National Police headquarters, where the Mossos d’Esquadra fired non-lethal bullets at some of the demonstrators, who threw firecrackers, stones and bottles at the officers and erected barricades with dumpsters and other objects and set them on fire.

The protesters also attacked a branch office of a bank and set ablaze several motorscooters parked in the area.

Hasel’s sentence had been reduced to nine months on appeal and he had been due to hand himself over to authorities on Friday but on Monday announced that he had barricaded himself inside the Lleida university building to avoid arrest, warning in a tweet that police would come to “kidnap me and kidnap the freedom of expression from anti-fascists.”

The National Court on Monday refused to grant Hasel a suspended sentence, pointing to previous convictions.

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