Jail sentence for terrorism-praising rapper provokes mass riots in Barcelona

Riots on the streets of Barcelona this weekend following protests against the arrest of controversial rapper Pablo Hasel turned nasty.

Thugs looted shops and even banks, while police desperately trying to contain the situation were pelted with glass bottles and stones.

The ugly demonstrations were not limited to Barcelona however with riots taking place in other Catalan towns, including Tarragona where Hasel was arrested on Tuesday and even the Spanish capital, Madrid.

Saturday saw a marked escalation after successive nights of destruction.

Riots first broke out on the night of Hasel’s arrest. 30 demonstraters were later brought in by the police in the aftermath of tens of thousands of Euros of damage.

Hasel was brought in by anti-riot police after a 24-hour stand-off in university town Tarragona. The left-wing musician had holed himself up to try and avoid a nine-month sentence after applauding violent terrorism and defaming former monarch, Juan Carlos I in one of his songs and over Twitter.

Since 1980, terrorists have killed more than a thousand people in Spain. Basque separatist group ETA was responsible for a constant series of bombings and targeted killings in the eighties and nineties. In 2004, 192 people were killed in the Madrid train bombings at the hands of Al-Qaeda. Islamic State orchestrated a deadly attack in 2017 when 24 people perished.

ETA is just one of the groups Hasel has tweeted about. He has also praised Marxist group GRAPO, responsible for more than 80 murders in the seventies and eighties.

“Demonstrations are necessary but not enough, we must support those who go further,” Hasel once tweeted. In another, he said he was “proud of those who reacted to police aggression”. 

He has also called the police, “nazis” and declared “death to Bourbons” a reference to the Spanish royal family. Having initially received a suspended sentence for “glorification of terrorism” in 2018, Hasel was finally given a custodial sentence for his slander of the royal family, causing outrage among his supporters and hard-left activists who took to the streets after he was brought into custody last week.

Following four nights of smaller-scale skirmishes, on Saturday thousands assembled for a rally in Barcelona. Sky News has described the protesters as “largely peaceful” (familiar?), however, it was not long before cans, bottles and even fireworks were being launched at police. Rioters set rubbish bins ablaze before marauding the streets.

Luxury stores likes Versace and Hugo Boss were looted, another typical left-wing target, the stock exchange, was also stormed.

“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,” said Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau.

Spain’s left-wing government in Madrid, where 400 protestors gathered on Saturday night, says it will abolish prison sentences for incidents relating to free speech. Hasel was convicted under a 2015 Public Security Law.