Protestors clashed with police in Spain on Tuesday after taking to the streets to demand the release of rapper Pablo Hasél, who was arrested on charges of glorifying terrorism for lyrics and comments in which he criticised police violence and the Spanish monarchy.
Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and sound bombs after angry protests were triggered across Spain, in cities including Madrid, Lleida, Barcelona, Girona and Valencia.
One woman was reported to have suffered an eye injury after being shot by a foam round, and yesterday the Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra said 29 arrests had been made in the region and at least 14 were made in Madrid.
In 2018 Pablo Hasél, real name Pablo Rivadulla Duro, was handed a two-year jail sentence and fine of almost €30,000 for his lyrics and comments, sparking concerns about freedom of speech and state oppression in Spain.
Lyrics and comments made by Hasél have included calling the former Spanish king Juan Carlos a “drunken tyrant” and “mafia capo”, praising Basque separatist group ETA, calling the national police “murderers”, and accusing the Guardia Civil, the police force in rural areas, of torturing and murdering migrants.
At the time of his sentencing, Spain’s highest criminal court ruled that his words went beyond the limits of free speech and defined them as “hatred and attacks on honour”.
However, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said to reporters that sending people to prison over freedom of speech matters should not happen in a democracy like Spain.
On appeal, the sentence was reduced to nine months, and Hasél was ordered to report to prison by the end of January. He refused to hand himself in, stating he planned to “make things as difficult as possible for the police” and to highlight “a hugely serious attack” on freedom, and on Monday barricaded himself inside a university in the city of Lleida.
Riot police then entered the building on Tuesday to arrest him, sparking the protests across the country, in which protestors chanted “No more police violence” and “Freedom for Pablo Hasél”.
The protests rolled over to a second night on Wednesday with thousands on the streets of Marid and Barcelona being met by police with batons and shields, with bottles and stones being thrown and met with a response of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Madrid’s mayor José Luis Martinez-Almeida condemend the violence, tweeting: "The violent and those who do not accept the rules have no place in our society."
Last week more than 200 prominent Spanish cultural figures, including Javier Bardem, signed a petition against Hasél’s jail term.
In the wake of anger about Hasél’s sentencing, last week the Spanish government said it plans to reform free speech laws to introduce milder penalties and only target speech that “clearly involves the creation of a risk to public order or provokes some kind of violent conduct”. This does not prevent Hasél’s imprisonment.
Watch videos of the police clashes via Reuters below.
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter
Read this next: Get the best of Mixmag direct to your Facebook DMs