Clashes erupt in 2nd night of protests over rapper’s jailing

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Demonstrators clash with police after a protest condemning the arrest of rap singer Pablo Hasél in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Violent street protests have erupted in some Spanish cities after police arrested a rapper who resisted imprisonment and has portrayed his case as a fight for free speech. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

MADRID (AP) — Spanish police fired rubber bullets and baton-charged protesters as clashes erupted for a second night in a row Wednesday at demonstrations against the arrest of rap artist Pablo Hasél.

Many protesters threw objects at officers and used trash containers — setting many alight — and overturned motorbikes to block streets in both Madrid and Barcelona and other cities. Many shop windows were smashed in the demonstrations.

Hasél barricaded himself in a university building earlier this week to avoid his arrest in a case centering on free speech. After a 24-hour standoff, police took him away early Tuesday.

He was taken to prison to serve a 9-month sentence for insulting the monarchy and glorifying terrorism in a song about former King Juan Carlos I and in 64 tweets several years ago.

Hasél’s legal situation has drawn considerable public attention, with performers, celebrities and politicians demanding a change in the law he was convicted of violating.

Amnesty International said the case was the latest in a string of artists and social media personalities being put on trial for violating Spain’s 2015 Public Security Law, which was enacted by a previous conservative-led government. The law allows has also been criticized for allegedly curtailing free assembly and to muzzle protests.

Some political parties defended the protesters but others defended the police and claimed the violence was caused by vandals.

Initial reports said 30 people were arrested Wednesday and some 20 people injured in the demonstrations.

Eighteen people were arrested Tuesday after violence broke out in the first protests of the rapper’s arrest, principally in Barcelona and other cities in the northeastern Catalonia region.

One woman lost an eye after reportedly being hit by a police rubber bullet Tuesday in Barcelona, officials said. Police said some 55 people, both officers and protesters, were treated for slight injuries.

Spanish National Television cited Barcelona authorities as estimating the damage at 70,000 euros ($84,000).

Other demonstrations, some violent, took place in other Spanish cities both Tuesday and Wednesday.

In response to protests over the case, Spain’s left-wing coalition government said last week that it planned to change the country’s criminal code to eliminate prison terms for offenses involving freedom of expression.

Hasél faced previous charges for assault, praising armed extremist groups, breaking into private premises and insulting the monarchy.

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