April 13. 2021. 10:56

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Barcelona clashes continues into fifth night after jailing of rapper

Protesters set fire to dumpsters during a march against the imprisonment of Spanish rapper Pablo Hasel, in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday. Photograph: Toni Albir/EPA

Protesters threw bottles at police, set fire to containers and smashed up shops in Barcelona on Saturday in the fifth night of clashes after a rapper was jailed for glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his songs.

The nine-month sentence for Pablo Hasel, known for his virulently anti-establishment rapping, has sparked a debate over freedom of expression in Spain, as well as protests which have at times turned violent.

Demonstrators hurled projectiles and flares at police, who fired foam bullets to disperse the crowd, the Catalan regional police known as the Mossos d’Esquadra said on Twitter.

About 6,000 demonstrators gathered in the Catalan city, local police said.

Protesters attacked shops on Barcelona’s most prestigious shopping street, Passeig de Gracia, while newspaper El Pais reported that others had smashed windows in the emblematic Palau de la Musica concert hall.

In Madrid and other cities, demonstrations were peaceful.

Earlier, Socialist Party president Cristina Narbona condemned the violence which has marked protests over the past four nights.

Catalan regional police officers of the Mossos d’Esquadra stand guard outside Barcelona’s stock market during clashes following a demonstration against the imprisonment of Spanish rapper Pablo Hasel on Saturday. Photograph: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty

“We reiterate our strongest condemnation of violence which cannot be justified as a defence of the freedom of expression,” she said.

Stores looted

During the first three nights of demonstrations, police fired tear gas and foam bullets at demonstrators who set fire to trash containers and motorcycles and looted stores. There were also clashes in the capital, Madrid, and other cities.

Officials said four people were injured in Barcelona on Friday after protesters pelted police with projectiles, attacked two banks and set fire to containers. Protesters caused €128,000 in damages, the city council said.

More than 60 people have been arrested across Catalonia during the flare-up, police said. One woman lost an eye during clashes in Barcelona, triggering calls from politicians to investigate police tactics.

Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem was among artists, celebrities and politicians who called for a change in the law covering freedom of expression. The Spanish government announced last week it would scrap prison sentences for offences involving cases of freedom of speech. – Reuters