In Spain, the arrest of the Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel, who had barricaded himself at the University of Lleida, inflames the streets and agitates politics, causing the first disagreements even within the government of Pedro Sánchez, between the socialists and Podemos.
The arrest of Hasel on Tuesday morning in a police operation broadcast live on TV, has unleashed the anger of thousands of young people against the monarchy and the police across the country. The rapper was sentenced to 9 months in prison for glorifying terrorism and insulting the crown. He was supposed to go to jail last Friday but he didn’t show up. Local media reported another night of clashes, which had Barcelona as its epicenter. Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Example district trying to reach the regional Interior department and hit the double police cordon deployed to defend the building with stones and firecrackers.
While they continued to move towards the center, the demonstrators passed the headquarters of the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya: shouts and insults at the “manipulative” press, then some boys raged against the large windows of the entrance by throwing stones. But the most serious accidents occurred in the city center, where it still barricades, as in recent days, dumpsters, cars, and motorcycles set on fire.
An agent of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, was injured in the head by a stone thrown against the car window. Also assaults on bank agencies and windows of numerous destroyed shops. Despite the curfew for the coronavirus pandemic at 10 pm, clashes were recorded from the four Catalan capitals in Valencia, from Andalusia to Madrid. It is in the heart of the capital, at the Puerta del Sol, that some of the most violent scenes have been seen, with the police who repeatedly charged the demonstrators who tried to head towards the Parliament, a few hundred meters away.
Clashes also in Catalonia, with 33 people arrested and 12 injured. But yesterday it also became known that a girl who was injured in the clashes on Tuesday night lost an eye. She had been hit in the face by a “foam” bullet: a type of “non-lethal” ammunition used by Mossos d ‘Esquadra, since the use of rubber bullets was banned due to its high danger.
The Mossos spokesman said that in the last two days the agents have fired 420 bullets of this type; a high use, he admitted, to deal with “violent attitudes”. And Saturday night, in Barcelona, was among the most violent that we remember from those days in October 2019 when the center of the Catalan capital was transformed into a battlefield after the heavy sentences passed by the Supreme Court against nine independence leaders.
In the square, asking for Pablo Hasel’s freedom and shouting slogans against the police, there were hundreds of young people who set up barricades and set fire to bins to block the way for the Mossos d’Esquadra vans. The firefighters had to intervene several times to extinguish the flames that threatened to spread to the buildings near the area of the clashes, between Plaça de Catalunya, Paseo de Gracia, and the university area.
The vans of the Brimo, the Mossos’ riot departments, were hit with stones, bottles, and firecrackers, and several officers were attacked with kicks and blow with sticks as they got out, sheltered behind plastic shields, to try to stop the fury of the demonstrators.
Anger fuelled by a movement that, with a strong base rooted in the groups of the separatists left grew from the frustration of the long months of lockdown and the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. Young people turn rapper Hasel into a symbol, the spokesperson pointed out their opposition to the monarchy and the limits imposed on freedom of expression by old laws that the Sánchez government has previously promised to change.
But the controversy also ignites within the Madrid executive, after Pablo Echenique, parliamentary group leader of Unidas Podemos, spread this message on Twitter: “All my support for the young anti-fascists who are demanding justice and freedom of expression in squares, in Barcelona and at the Puerta del Sol.”
The government vice president, the socialist Carmen Calvo, replied harshly: “It is one thing to defend freedom of expression, another is to encourage situations with injuries and arrests”. Echenique does not back down, on the contrary, he publishes on Twitter the photo of the girl who in Barcelona lost an eye to the bullet fired by the police.