A fifth night of protests to denounce the imprisonment of a Spanish rap artist has once more devolved into clashes between police and members of fringe groups in Barcelona.
Small groups made up mostly of young people began their nightly cat-and-mouse game with officers an hour after several thousand protesters gathered in the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, which saw the worst of the violence during earlier demonstrations this week over rapper Pablo Hasel’s detention.
Police were pelted by rocks after a march in the Catalan town of Lleida, where Hasel spent 24 hours barricaded inside a university building before police took him away to serve a nine-month prison sentence for insulting the Spanish monarchy and praising terrorist violence in his music.
Catalonia’s regional police force said there also was defiance in the city of Tarragona, where groups threw glass bottles at police and smashed store windows.
On Saturday, some rioters damaged scattered stores on Barcelona’s main shopping street and threw stones after police in riot gear poured out of vans to engage them.
The disorder appears have come from a fringe group of mainly younger people who constituted a small share of the thousands of participants who joined in marches to support Hasel and to oppose the Spanish laws used to prosecute him.
Around 80 people have been arrested and more than 100 people injured since Hasel’s arrest on Tuesday.
Police in Catalonia have reported at least three mob attacks on police stations. Rioters smashed their way into bank offices in Barcelona, burned trash containers, and looted sporting goods stores on Friday night.
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau made an appeal for calm.
She said: “Defending the freedom of expression doesn’t justify in any case the destruction of property, frightening our fellow citizens, and hurting businesses already hurt by the crisis (caused by the pandemic).”
Marches were took place in cities across Spain. Most were peaceful, but Pamplona in the central north saw clashes between police and people throwing bottles.
Madrid municipal authorities said that 300 National Police officers were called up to assist city police, but a protest of several hundred people concluded in the Spanish capital without any splintering-off of troublemakers.
Spain’s left-wing government announced last week – before Hasel was detained – that it would change the law to remove prison terms for offences involving freedom of expression.
It did not specifically mention the rap artist or set a timetable for the changes, and its pledge appears to have done little to calm tensions.