Thousands of people gathered in Barcelona on Saturday, including families and elderly protesters in the city’s Plaça Universitat, where a rally began peacefully.
After passing another square, called Plaça Urquinaona, the police started beating the protesters, Berta Galofré Pons, a 23-year-old political scientist, told CNN. Images from Saturday’s Barcelona protests show multiple clashes between protesters and police.
The group burned motorcycles and erected barricades before firefighters arrived at the scene, officers said.
Mossos arrested 34 people on Saturday, bringing the week’s total to nearly 100.
Hasel himself was arrested on Tuesday after Catalan riot police stormed the University of Lledia, near Barcelona, where the rapper and his supporters had barricaded themselves.
Video of the arrest shows the defiant rapper shouting, “You will never beat us! You will never defeat us, we will resist until we are victorious.”
Hasel had until February 12 to surrender to the police after the Spanish Supreme Court in May 2020 upheld a lower court’s conviction in March 2018 against the rapper, whose full name is Pablo Rivadulla Duro.
The conviction was for supporting terrorism, as well as defamation and slander against the Spanish monarchy, through its social media posts, according to a copy of the court sentence and a statement from the Supreme Court press office. He was sentenced to nine months in prison.
Spain’s government announced last week that it would lift prison sentences for freedom of expression-related offenses, but it’s unclear when the changes will be made.
“How can you put someone in jail for expressing their ideas?” Galofré said when asked why she was present on Saturday night.
“I do not agree with the looting, and there are always people who will take advantage of social movements to sow chaos,” said Galofré. “The protests were peaceful until the police intervened.”
In Galofré’s hometown of Sabadell, a town north of Barcelona, the protests were passive and uneventful, she added.
A much smaller protest took place in the Spanish capital Madrid, where around 100 people chanted for Hasel’s freedom.
Five nights of demonstrations
Joan Colet, a 16-year-old student, was protesting in Plaça de Catalunya on Saturday night and saw people breaking away from the main rally group and starting to loot.
“A lot of people are taking advantage of it, they are not here to protest,” he told CNN. “They have different motives.”
Police beat some protesters with batons and fired foam bullets at others, Colet said, adding that the barricades put up by the protesters were for protection.
“We are tired of people going to jail for just posting something on social media,” he said. “It’s about Pablo’s freedom, but also Spanish freedom and freedom of expression.”
“In a full democracy, and the Spanish democracy is a full democracy, the use of violence is unacceptable. There is no exception to this rule,” he said during a press conference. “There is no reason, place or situation that can justify the use of force.”
Stories of police violence
Contacted by CNN, Mossos said the person Cornellà was trying to help had a criminal record and that he had instigated one of the officers to interfere with the arrest.
A woman was injured in the eye after a projectile hit her on Tuesday, said photojournalist Àngel García, who captured the scene.
“I was standing in front of the riot police line when they shot, he told CNN on the phone on Saturday.” I turned around and saw a woman with her hand over her eyes, covered in blood. ”
García said the woman was hit by a police rubber bullet and lost her eye, which CNN could not independently verify.
In response to a request for comment from CNN, Mossos said his force only used foam bullets to maintain public order. He is currently investigating the incident.
“The police behaved brutally,” said Oriol Estival, a 22-year-old geography student at the University of Barcelona who attended the protests. “There has been massive police harassment and wrongful arrests of people doing nothing.”
Estival said people looted luxury fashion brand stores, but said most attendees were peaceful. Like Galofré, he said he was protesting not only against Hasel’s arrest, but also against police brutality and “the rise of the far right and fascism in Catalonia”.
CNN’s Duarte Mendonca, Al Goodman and Sarah Dean contributed to this report.