Protests in support of a jailed Catalan rapper have descended into violence, with police and demonstrators clashing in Spain’s main cities.
The protests erupted a day after Pablo Hasél was jailed for tweets insulting police and the Spanish monarchy. Thousands of protesters in Madrid and Barcelona were met by riot police carrying batons and shields. Dozens have been arrested, including at least 14 in Madrid and 29 in Barcelona, police said.
In the Spanish capital, a demonstration started peacefully, with protesters clapping their hands and chanting “No more police violence” and “Freedom for Pablo Hasél”. But after bottles and stones were thrown at riot police, they used tear gas and rubber bullets.
Similar scenes were seen in Barcelona, where protesters set up barricades and set fire to furniture in the streets. Stones, bottles and blunt objects were thrown, prompting officers to respond by using foam bullets and charging the protesters, police say.
Violent protests were reported in Lleida – the 32-year-old rapper’s hometown, and where he was arrested – as well as in the towns of Gerona and Tarragona, police said.
Hasél, whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla Duro, was taken to prison on Tuesday. He had missed a deadline last Friday to give himself up to police and begin serving a jail term handed down in 2018.
Police had stormed a university building where Hasél had barricaded himself and arrested him, triggering rallies and riots in Barcelona and other Catalan cities.
The rapper faces nine months in prison for glorifying terrorism and slandering the crown in tweets and song lyrics. The case of Hasél – known for his radical leftist views – has reignited a debate about free speech in Spain. On Wednesday, Hasél said his arrest had unleashed a wave of outrage against what he described as fascist Spanish institutions.