BARCELONA (Reuters) – Police charged protesters who set fire to garbage containers and attacked banks in the Spanish cities on Friday on the fourth night of riots after a rapper jailed for glorifying terrorism and insulting the royal family in his songs.
Pablo Hasel’s nine-month sentence, known for his brutal rape against the ruling, has galvanized a debate over freedom of expression in Spain, prompting the government to announce it would make speech laws less restrictive and spark protests who, from time to time, turned violent
Two banks were attacked in Barcelona. Police accused protesters in the northern Catalan city of Girona.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the violence which has marked protests over the past three nights.
Democracy defends freedom of speech, including the expression of the most horrible, absurd thoughts, but democracy never defends violence, he said of an event, promising to expand and improve freedom of speech.
Over the past three nights police opened tear gas and foam bullets at demonstrators who set fire to garbage containers and engines and looted shops. There were also clashes in the capital Madrid and other cities.
Officials said about 60 people had been arrested across Catalonia, where Barcelona is located. A woman lost an eye during clashes in Barcelona, prompting calls from politicians to investigate police tactics.
The rights group Amnesty International called for legal changes in Spain, saying anti-terrorism and fraud laws also unjustly restricted people’s right to demonstrate their disapproval on the streets.
Spain is a country with freedom of expression, of course, but there are threats to that freedom, said the head of Amnesty for Spain, Esteban Beltran.
Reporting by Graham Keeley, Joan Faus, Nathan Allen, Luis Felipe Castilleja, Jordi Rubio, Albert Gea, Guillermo Martinez, Silvio Castellanos and Richard Chang
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