BARCELONA, (AFP):- A police van was torched and looting broke out on Saturday as police and protesters clashed in the latest demonstration in Barcelona, 11 days after the jailing of a Spanish rapper in a highly contentious free speech case.
Spain has been rocked by angry protests since police jailed rapper Pablo Hasel on February 16 for nine months over tweets in which he glorified terrorist attacks, likened former king Juan Carlos I to a mafia boss and accused police of killing demonstrators and migrants.
Since his jailing, protesters have turned out most nights, with the demonstrations broadening to include other social causes, such as the EU’s unemployment rate and increasing rent prices.
Several hundred people demonstrated on Saturday in Barcelona, the capital of Hasel’s home region of Catalonia, according to an AFP journalist.
But in the evening the protest degenerated into acts of vandalism and the looting of bank branches, one of which was set on fire, according to Catalan police.
The Catalan police condemned “hooded rioters” who attacked “shops, and particularly banks”, adding that one of their police vans had been torched, along with many rubbish bins.
Around 10 people were arrested during the clashes, one of whom was “involved in torching the van”, the police said.
More than 110 protesters have been arrested since the arrest of 32-year-old Hasel, which sparked protests in cities across Spain, with the most pronounced in Catalonia.
It has also provoked a debate about freedom of expression, and driven a rift between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists its junior coalition partner the hard-left Podemos, which has supported the protests.
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