BARCELONA – Barcelona and several other Spanish cities woke up on Saturday morning to looted stores and damaged property after a fourth consecutive night of protests calling for the release of rapper Pablo Hasel.
The artist, whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla, has been in prison since Tuesday after he was found guilty of glorifying the now-defunct Basque terrorist group ETA and slandering the royal family, the police and the court system in a series of tweets and some of his lyrics.
Friday night’s riots took place mainly in different parts of Catalonia, where the rapper is from, although there were also altercations in the cities of Valencia and Valladolid.
At least four arrests were made, police said.
In a message on social media, the mayor of Barcelona, the leftist Ada Colau, condemned the violence and destruction of property.
“Defending freedom of expression does not justify in any case destroying all kinds of property, scaring neighbors, damaging businesses affected by the crisis or attacking the media,” said Colau.
“All support to the security forces and emergency services working to prevent greater evils,” she added.
It was the fourth night of street riots in Spain since Hasel was sentenced to nine months in prison. More protests are expected to be called over the weekend.
The jailing of Hasel reopened the debate on the limits of freedom of expression in Spain and, in particular, the so-called gag law used to underpin the charges against the artist.
The Socialist-led coalition government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said it would review the penalties for artists whose work is found to insult or incite violence against state institutions.
Some 200 Spanish artists, including actor Javier Bardem and film director Pedro Almodovar, have signed an open letter opposing Hasel’s sentence, the imposition of which has also faced criticism from organizations such as Amnesty International.