Angry youths rattle Spain in support of jailed rap artist

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The imprisonment of a rap artist for his music praising terrorist violence and insulting the Spanish monarchy has set off a powder keg of pent-up rage this week in the southern European country. #Artsandentertainment #Barcelona

Angry youths rattle Spain in support of jailed rap artist Photo

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The imprisonment of a rap artist for his music and tweets praising terrorist violence and insulting the Spanish monarchy has set off a powder keg of pent-up rage this week in the southern European country.

Under the banner of freedom of expression, many Spaniards strongly object to putting an artist behind bars for his lyrics and social media remarks. They are clamoring for Spain’s left-wing government to fulfill its promise and roll back the Public Security Law passed by the previous conservative administration that was used to prosecute Hasél and other artists.

Hasél’s imprisonment to serve a nine-month sentence on Tuesday has also tapped into a well of frustration among Spain’s youths, who have the highest unemployment rate in the European Union. Four in every 10 eligible workers under 25 years old are without a job.

“I think that what we are experiencing now with the cases of Pablo Hasél (…) and other rappers politically detained by this regime is a brutal attack against the freedom of speech,” 26-year-old student Pablo Castilla said during a protest in Barcelona. “The protests are being brutally repressed by the allegedly progressive national government and the Catalan government.

For many, including older peaceful protesters, Hasél’s case also represents what they perceive as a heavy-handed reaction by a state whose very structure is in need of deep reform. That’s even when some of his public remarks, especially in messages sent out on Twitter, Hasél expressed radical ideas, talked about attacking politicians and defended the now-defunct Grapo and ETA, two armed organizations that killed over 1,000 people in Spain.

Hasél’s lyrics that strike at King Felipe VI and his father, King Emeritus Juan Carlos I, have connected with a growing public debate on the future of Spain’s parliamentary monarchy. Unquestioned outside fringe circles of the Left until the past decade, the royal house has been plagued by financial scandal that has reached Juan Carlos himself. Many Spaniards were aghast when the former monarch left Spain for the United Arab Emirates amid a court investigation into his alleged fiscal improprieties.

As well as shouting its support for Hasél, a crowd that gathered in Madrid on Saturday chanted “Where is the change? Where is the progress?” and “Juan Carlos de Borbón, womanizer and thief.”

The debate has caused tensions inside Spain’s left-wing coalition government. While Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Socialist Party back the parliamentary monarchy Spain has had since the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the 1970s, their minor partner, the upstart United We Can party, wants to get rid of the monarchy and has supported this week’s protests for Hasél despite their violent turn.

In the rapper’s home region of Catalonia, the unrest also comes after years of separatist politicians urging citizens to ignore or disobey court rulings unfavorable to their cause. Although this week’s protests are missing widespread calls for Catalonia’s independence or flags supporting secession of the industrial region, the head of public safety for Barcelona’s town hall said that many of the most violent offenders were also heavily involved in the 2019 riots that followed the imprisonment of several separatist leaders.

“It is a varied, violent profile that we already are familiar with because it is very similar to those who played a large role in the incidents of October 2019, so we know the type,” Barcelona town council member Albert Batlle told Cadena SER radio.

Some leading pro-secessionist politicians have heavily criticized the handling of the protests by Catalan police, who made more than 35 arrests on Saturday night alone.

What started out as peaceful, if angry, protests by thousands in Barcelona and other nearby towns, degenerated into ugly incidents come nightfall caused by a violent minority bent on destroying property and battling with police.

“I think we must differentiate between those who come here in support of Pablo Hasél’s freedom and those who do not,” 19-year-old Joana Junca said. “Street barricades to defend themselves are okay. But those who go out there just to riot don’t have my support.”

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