At least 14 people were arrested in Barcelona on Saturday during another day of demonstration, sparked by the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasél, who is accused of violating the crown and defending terrorism.
The protest on Saturday brought together four thousand people, according to Guarda Urbana, who at the end of the day were peacefully concentrated in the Plaza Universitat. As on other occasions, the atmosphere grew tense and protesters became involved in confrontations with the police.
The most serious incident was the fire of an Urban Guard van that had the driver in it and was unharmed. At least one person linked to this episode has been arrested.
This was the ninth demonstration in Catalonia since Hasél was arrested on February 16, in protest of what many see as unjust allegations and in defense of freedom of expression. Anti-capitalist and anti-monarchist slogans can also be heard among the demonstrators.
Hasél was sentenced to more than two years in prison for “extolling terrorism” and “insulting the crown and state institutions” for the lyrics of his songs and the content of his messages posted on social networks.
His attempt to oppose the arrest after barricading himself at the University of Lleida and forcing police to intervene drew the country’s attention to the case. The head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, admitted that the state had to improve the protection of freedom of expression, although he did not refer directly to Hasél’s case. The government is considering revising the legal framework for crimes against the Crown.
Catalan politicians have again condemned vandalism and acts of violence by those involved in the protests. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said that “the right to protest is perfectly legitimate” but “violence and vandalism are not”.
In the same way, the Vice-President of the Catalan Government, Pere Aragonès, stated that “the theft or destruction of shops, the burning of furniture [urbano] or attacking public workers is neither freedom of expression nor freedom of demonstration. “
The protests for other Catalan cities took place peacefully, says the newspaper La Vanguardia, although a group of demonstrators threw stones at a patrol of the city guard in Lleida.
The persistence of the demonstrations in Catalonia creates unease in the negotiations on the formation of the new autonomous government among the independence parties that were most elected in the February 14 elections.
At stake is the criticism of the anti-capitalist party Candidacy for Popular Unity (CUP) of the Mossos d’Esquadra’s action, which even led to requests for dissolution, says El País. The support of the MPs of this party is instrumental in the formation of the new regional executive.