Protests continue one week on from rapper's jailing

112 people arrested and 77 injured over first 7 days of protests

Demonstrators in Barcelona show support for jailed rapper Pablo Hasel, February 22, 2021 (by Miquel Codolar)
Demonstrators in Barcelona show support for jailed rapper Pablo Hasel, February 22, 2021 (by Miquel Codolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 23, 2021 07:28 PM

One week on from the jailing of rapper Pablo Hasel, protesters were called to the streets for the eighth night in a row on Tuesday at 7pm, with a counter-rally organized by the far-right at the same time.

In Barcelona, Hasel's supporters gathered at Plaça Letamendi, while the far-right assembled at their usual meeting point of Plaça d'Artós.

The pro-Hasel supporters marched down Aragó road toward Diagonal Avenue and made their way in the direction of the far-right rally.

Demonstrators threw objects at the police, with one injuring a journalist.

Other demonstrations

Pro-Hasel demonstrators also met at Plaça d'Octavià in Sant Cugat del Vallès, just northwest of the Catalan capital.

During the first seven nights of demonstrations, 112 people have been arrested and 77 injured. Two of those arrested are in provisional detention.

Barcelona City Council estimates the riots have caused one million euros' worth of damage to street infrastructure, including 300 burnt-out rubbish containers.

Demonstrators believe the musician's right to freedom of expression has been violated by sentencing him for the content of his songs and tweets.

Courts convicted the rapper for glorifying terrorism and for slander against the Spanish monarchy, police, and other institutions.

Other demands of the mainly young protesters include ending police violence as well as creating greater economic equity after a year of pandemic-related frustrations.

Police handling of riots in spotlight

A 19-year-old woman in Barcelona lost an eye to a foam bullet fired by an officer on Tuesday, during the first night of protests, and on Saturday, the Mossos d'Esquadra police charged into protesters after cornering them on Barcelona's Gran de Gràcia street.

Both events have sparked much criticism among human rights organizations, such as the Irídia group, who said the action in the Gràcia district put people "clearly at risk" because it created crowds – the NGO said some people ended up injured after the police operation.

Meanwhile, the interior minister, Miquel Sàmper, said no injuries were reported due to the incident in Gràcia and added that "only for one minute was a minimal use of force employed."

He added that the Mossos' operation aimed to avoid the vandalism and looting reported in the past few days: "The riots and what we have witnessed this week are not the right to demonstrate."

One week of unrest

The protests held every night since Tuesday, when Pablo Hasel was arrested in Lleida, have followed a similar pattern by beginning non-violently before eventually descending into clashes between demonstrators and police officers.

Some protesters have set dumpster barricades on fire, as well as a handful of cars and motorcycles, and thrown objects at the police, who have responded by charging at them and firing foam bullet rounds.

Who is Pablo Hasel?

Pablo Rivadulla Duró, or Pablo Hasel as he is more commonly known, is a rapper from the Catalan city of Lleida who was arrested on February 16 to serve time behind bars after being found guilty of glorifying terrorism and slander against the monarchy in his songs and tweets.

How long Hasel will end up spending in prison is not yet clear as he has other ongoing legal issues, but he has been sentenced to two years and nine months for the two separate cases for which he is currently in jail.

The rapper's imprisonment has reignited the debate on freedom of expression in Spain and its so-called 'gag law' as many of Hasel's sympathizers argue it is not enforced fairly.