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What young protesters in the recent riots have to say

Thousands have taken to the streets to express discontent after the arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel for over a week

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23 February 2021 08:33 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

Catalonia has witnessed 7 consecutive nights of protests after Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel was arrested for song lyrics and tweets which were deemed to be glorification of terrorism and slander to the Spanish monarchy. 

Starting on Tuesday, the day of his imprisonment, thousands of young people have participated in marches and riots which have descended into violent clashes between demonstrators and police. Catalan News has asked some of them what brought them to the protest. 

Pablo Hasel’s arrest and freedom of speech

The issue which sparked last week’s disturbances was the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel, which many believed to be an attack on the right of freedom of speech. 

Júlia told Catalan News: “I’ve come here because I think [the Spanish state] is violating some basic rights and it’s necessary to defend them”.

Likewise, Marta commented: “It could be one of our classmates who is a rapper, or us tweeting ‘Fuck Spain’ or ‘Death to the King’... in a matter of years it could be me”.

Cumulative issues and reignited anger from past protests

It’s an “iceberg”, said Dídac. “We are very angry, we’re furious,” he added.

Júlia also told Catalan News that “the turning point was a year ago with the sentencing of the pro-Independence political leaders”. 

She referred to October 2019 when nine politicians and activists were sentenced to between 9 and 13 years in jail for organizing the 2017 referendum. The decision was followed by a week of unrest. 

Now, a year on from those protests, with little to no change to the status quo, she said: “We are tired of not being listened to… the people are furious and frustrated”. 

Poor future prospects for young people

The lack of future prospects for Catalonia’s youth is also one of the factors fueling people to go out onto the streets, according to some of them.  

“Young people are out of work, unable to have a dependable future”, said Júlia.

At the start of February 2021, unemployment in Catalonia hit half a million and young people are being disproportionately impacted, with 38% of those between 16 and 24 out of job at the end of 2020. 

Two twenty-year-old girls protesting together, Clara and Marta, told this media outlet that “it’s not only the economic situation.”

“As young people, our future is increasingly dark as a result of the laws passed by oppressors,” they emphasized. 

Police handling of the riots

The way that the police dealt with the first few days of unrest, including one 19-year-old woman losing her eye allegedly from a police-fired foam bullet, was another motivation for protesting as the week went on. 

“The police, as always, are reacting more violently than the people,” another rally-goer said. “I feel safer without the police than with the police.”

The way that future demonstrations should be handled by police has been brought into the spotlight as a result of last week’s events. 

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  • Protesters in support of jailed rapper Pablo Hasel hold up a sign on Via Laietana reading “You have shown us that being peaceful is useless” (by Laura Fíguls)

  • Protesters in support of jailed rapper Pablo Hasel hold up a sign on Via Laietana reading “You have shown us that being peaceful is useless” (by Laura Fíguls)

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