Looting as police, protesters clash at Barcelona rally for rapper

BARCELONA (AFP) – Looting broke out as police and demonstrators in Barcelona clashed for a fifth night on Saturday, with thousands hitting the streets across Spain in protest against the jailing of a controversial rapper.

Angry demonstrations first erupted last Tuesday after police detained Pablo Hasel, 32, and took him to jail to start serving a nine-month sentence in a highly contentious free speech case.

Since then, protesters have turned out every night, clashing with police in disturbances which began in Hasel’s home region of Catalonia, but have since spread to Madrid and beyond.

Ahead of the rallies, police were out en masse to head off any of the violence that has marred earlier protests, with dozens of police vans lining the streets of Madrid and Barcelona.

Several thousand demonstrators began gathering around 7pm in Barcelona, and clashes broke out as they started marching towards the police headquarters.

Protesters hurled bottles, cans and firecrackers at police, who charged at them as smoke poured into the air from burning barricades, an AFP correspondent said.

Others smashed their way into shops along Barcelona’s glitzy Passeig de Gracia shopping avenue, looting stores such as Nike, Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss and Diesel.

Protesters clash with Catalan regional police officers. PHOTO: AFP