For the second day in a row, thousands of Spaniards took to the streets on Wednesday evening (17) to protest in favor of the release of rapper Pablo Hasél, arrested for glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his songs and publications on the social networks.
This time the acts reached Madrid and were repeated in cities like Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona, Vic and Lleida. In the Spanish capital, protests in the central square, Puerta del Sol, began peacefully, with participants chanting phrases such as “enough police violence” and “freedom for Pablo Hasél”.
At one point, however, there was friction between protesters and the police dispatched to the scene. Part of the crowd threw glass bottles and stones at the officers, who responded with batons. Some groups also burned dumpsters and containers, forming barricades to prevent police from advancing through Madrid’s narrow streets.
“The violent and those who do not accept the rules have no place in our society. I strongly condemn the violence, ”wrote the mayor of Madrid, the conservative José Luis Martínez-Almeida, in a Twitter message.
At least 19 people have been arrested, according to Madrid authorities. The emergency services recorded 55 injured, including 35 police officers.
In Barcelona, Catalan regional police officers fired foam bullets (similar to rubber bullets) in retaliation at the crowd who threw stones and bottles at security forces armored vehicles.
Police across Catalonia said they had arrested 33 people. Among the dozens injured were a 19-year-old girl who lost an eye after being shot and a reporter for the Reuters news agency.
Hasél was convicted in 2018 under the Citizen Security Act, which places restrictions on free speech and has become known locally as the “gag law”.
The reason for his conviction is a set consisting of posts on Twitter and lyrics to his songs in which, among other topics, he compares Spanish judges and police to the Nazis, classifies King Emeritus Juan Carlos as a “Mafia boss. And evokes the monarchy as “shitty mercenaries”.
According to the law, Hasél’s publications and music can be characterized as “glorification of terrorism” by references to ETA (the former Basque separatist paramilitary group dissolved in 2018) and incitement to violence by critics of police and police. the monarchy.
Justice gave a deadline until last Friday (12) for the rapper to surrender voluntarily. Instead, Hasél joined a group of supporters and took refuge in the building of the University of Lleida, a town in the Catalonia region, on Monday (15). The next morning, however, dozens of police broke into the institution’s building to arrest him.
“The victory will be ours. There will be no forgetting or forgiveness,” he shouted, his fist raised, surrounded by police shortly before being taken to prison. In retrospect, the sentence seemed like a harbinger of actions to follow. Hours later, thousands of people launched a wave of protests calling for the release of the rapper and condemning the application of the “gag law”.
More than 200 artists, including filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and actor Javier Bardem, have signed a petition opposing the rapper’s arrest. The petition compares Spain to countries like Turkey and Morocco, where artists and government opponents live at imminent risk of detention.
In response to the rapper’s case, spokeswoman María Jesús Montero said last week that the government was prepared to “provide a more secure framework for free speech” through reform of the law, still in its infancy.
In a statement, the left-wing coalition government, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, said the reform would introduce lighter sentences instead of imprisonment. In addition, only actions which “clearly involve the creation of a risk to public order or the cause of a certain type of violent behavior” will be targeted.
In this sense, Sánchez also received criticism from Hasél. According to the rapper, the government was doing nothing to prevent his arrest. “With false claims like so many false promises, they want to extinguish solidarity,” he tweeted.
The “gag law” was enacted in 2015, under the government of conservative Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP). The stated objective was to prohibit the glorification of violence by armed groups like ETA and also to curb insults against religions or the monarchy.
Since then, however, the law has been enforced very restrictively, imposing criminal penalties on legitimate critics of the state.
Despite being sentenced to nine months in prison, Hasél could see his sentence extended to more than two years as the sentence includes a fine which the rapper refused to pay – as have other Spaniards charged under the ” gag law ”.
However, Hasél’s problems with the Spanish justice system can be even more serious. In his case file, he has another conviction for similar acts, but the execution of the sentence has been suspended. In addition, he is awaiting legal opinions on two other sentences he has appealed against: one for assaulting a journalist and the other for assaulting a witness during a hearing.