After the arrest of the Catalan rapper Pablo Hasél, clashes between demonstrators and the police broke out again in Spain. Hundreds of people gathered in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square on Wednesday evening and demanded the release of the 32-year-old artist. Masked protesters threw bottles at the police from the crowd, reporters from the AFP news agency reported.
In Barcelona, too, clashes between police and demonstrators broke out the day before after serious clashes. Rioters threw objects at police officers and set garbage cans on fire. The security forces responded with rubber bullets. At least six people have been arrested, said the Catalan police.
On Tuesday evening, thousands of people took to the streets in several cities in solidarity with Hasél. There were violent riots. According to the authorities, a total of 33 people had to receive medical treatment for minor injuries, 19 of them police officers. In Barcelona, 1,700 people marched through the streets with “Free Pablo” signs on Tuesday evening. Towards the end of the rally, some protesters started setting fire to garbage cans and throwing stones and other objects at the police.
Hasél was convicted of glorifying terror and insulting the Spanish crown and state institutions. The background is a series of Twitter posts in which the 32-year-old rapper attacked the monarchy and the police. He called police officers, among other things, “shitty mercenaries” and accused them of killing demonstrators and migrants.
Hasél, whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla Duró, was given until Friday to voluntarily surrender to the police. Instead, he barricaded himself in the University of Lleida on Monday with dozens of supporters. Then on Tuesday he was arrested during a police operation. Hasél protested against his arrest with the words: “It is the fascist state that arrests me. Death to the fascist state!” A police spokesman said, “We’re taking him straight to jail.”
The sentence against Hasél had already sparked protests in Spain. A petition calling for the rapper’s release has been signed by more than 200 artists, including well-known director Pedro Almodóvar and Hollywood star Javier Bardem. There have been several protests in Madrid and Barcelona in recent weeks.
Last week, under the pressure of the protests, the Spanish government announced a reform of the criminal law, through which “verbal excesses in the context of artistic, cultural or intellectual” actions would no longer fall under criminal law.
Vice-Prime Minister Carmen Calvo did not want to comment on Hasél’s arrest. Referring to the plans to reform criminal law, she said that freedom of expression must have “room for understanding and tolerance in a mature democracy like ours”.
Hasél often attacks the Spanish royal family in his songs. He accuses her of having succeeded the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Many of his texts contain anti-fascist or Marxist statements. In one of his songs Hasél wishes to let Spain’s previous King Juan Carlos I “fly through the air”. “This is not terrorism, it deserves heaven,” says the rap song.
For many Spaniards, the Hasél case brings back memories of the rapper Valtonyc, who was convicted of similar allegations in 2018 and then fled to Belgium. The extradition of Valtonyc requested by Spain is rejected by Brussels on the grounds that the allegations against him are not a criminal offense in Belgium.