Spanish police and protesters on Thursday clashed for a third night over the jailing of a rapper for controversial posts on Twitter, triggering a political backlash.
Dozens of people have been arrested since Tuesday night when angry demonstrations erupted after police detained Pablo Hasel, 32, who was holed up in a university in Catalonia to avoid going to jail in a highly contentious free speech case.
The violence has thrust the hard left Podemos party — the junior partner in Spain’s left-wing coalition, which has opposed Hasel’s jailing and publicly supported the protesters — into the firing line.
Police reported six arrests in Barcelona on Thursday after protesters set up barricades, prompting police to fire tear gas.
The center of the Catalan capital was filled with burning trash cans and furniture. Hooded youths hurled stones and bottles at police vans, and damaged some vehicles.
The newsroom of the newspaper El Periodico de Cataluna was attacked, while TVE television showed images of clashes in the eastern city of Valencia.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of people gathered in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square calling for Hasel’s release, hurling bottles at police, who charged at them in clashes lasting several hours, reporters said.
Police arrested 19 people, while the city’s emergency services said that 55 people were injured, among them 35 police officers.
In Barcelona and three other Catalan cities, demonstrators lobbed objects at police and set barricades ablaze on Wednesday, with police charging the protesters and in some places firing foam rounds.
About 50 people were arrested across the country.
The director of Catalonia’s regional police force, Pere Ferrer, said officers faced a “highly complex scenario” because of the “high volume of public disorder,” which included looting.
The force has opened an investigation after a young woman lost an eye on Tuesday night in Barcelona as a result of a foam projectile used by police to dispel the protesters, he added.
Hasel, known for his hard-left views, was arrested after failing to turn himself in to start a nine-month sentence over posts calling former Spanish king Juan Carlos I a mafia boss, and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants.
A court in his hometown of Lerida on Friday last week sentenced the rapper to another jail term of two-and-a-half years for threatening to kill a man at a bar, a ruling published on Thursday showed.
In the immediate firing line was Podemos lawmaker Pablo Echenique, who wrote on Twitter his backing for the protesters as the clashes were raging.
“All my support to the young anti-fascists who are demanding justice and freedom of expression in the streets,” Echenique wrote.
However, much anger was directed at Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias — also a deputy prime minister — who has criticized Hasel’s jailing and used it to question Spain’s democracy.
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