MADRID (AP) – Violent street protests over the imprisonment of a rapper are unacceptable, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Friday in remarks that accentuated a break with the junior partner in his coalition government.
In impromptu remarks at the beginning of an economics speech, Sánchez spoke of the three consecutive nights of riots this week that have sparked a heated debate on the limits of freedom of expression in Spain and a political storm over the use of violence. both on the part of the rapper’s sympathizers and the police.
Sánchez said that “violence is an attack on democracy” and that the “government will face any form of violence and guarantee citizen security.”
For his part, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska thanked the police for their efforts and said that they will continue to guarantee the rights and freedoms of the whole of society against a minority whose misconception of rights makes them resort to violence.
Almost 80 people have been arrested and more than 100 have been injured since rapper Pablo Hasél was arrested earlier this week to serve a 9-month prison sentence for insulting the Spanish monarchy and praising terrorist violence.
Students from at least four Spanish cities held peaceful demonstrations on Friday morning. The same group that called for this week’s violent protests in Barcelona was organizing another meeting in the city for Friday night.
Sánchez and Grande-Marlaska belong to the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which heads the coalition government. Senior members of the coalition’s junior partner, the far-left United We Can party, spoke out in support of the protesters and criticized police after a protester lost an eye, allegedly due to a foam bullet fired by riot police.
On Thursday, the party filed a clemency petition for Hasél and another rapper, Valtònyc, who fled to Belgium in 2018 to avoid trial on charges of apology for terrorism.
Many people, including artists, celebrities and politicians, have expressed support for a change in the country’s so-called “Gag Law” that covers freedom of expression.
The government announced last week that it would change the law to eliminate prison terms for crimes related to freedom of expression. He did not specifically mention Hasél or set a timetable for the changes.