Riots following rapper’s arrest drive coalition parties apart

by Deborah Cater
Riots follow Spanish rapper's arrest

The already tense situation between the ruling parties PSOE and Unidas Podemos has not improved after the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasél and the violent protests that followed. Podemos refuses to condemn the riots.

Hasél was arrested earlier this week after trying to escape prison by hiding in Lleida University. The rapper is serving a nine month prison sentence for his statements against the royals and glorification of terrorism. After Hasél’s arrest, riots broke out throughout Spain, injuring people and looting shops.

Tensions rising between Podemos and other political parties

Unidas Podemos then questioned the police action in these riots. They refused to convict the rioters, much to the dismay of coalition partner PSOE and the opposition parties. The latter have demanded the resignation of Podemos. This is not the first disagreement between the PSOE and Podemos. Earlier, during the Catalan election campaign, changes to the new gender law and the financing of social reforms created tensions between the two parties in the Chamber.

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Freedom of speech

According to Unidas Podemos, the arrest of Pablo Hasél goes against the democratic principle of freedom of expression. Podemos spokesman Pablo Echenique posted a tweet on Wednesday in which he expressed his support for the protesters and that a number of police actions need to be investigated further. “I fully support all the young anti-fascists who are fighting in the streets for justice and freedom of expression. […] The violent mutilation of a protester’s eye must be further investigated ”, said the tweet that sparked a series of reactions in the House of Representatives. It was not only the opposition demanding apologies. Government partner PSOE also said street riots and looting have nothing to do with freedom of expression.

No endorsement of violence but condemnation of police actions

Despite the many reactions from the Chamber, Podemos has not rectified Enchenique’s message. Fellow Podemos spokesperson Rafael Mayoral called for a “profound reflection” on what he himself referred to as structural violence by the various state powers. Mayoral also refused to condemn the violent protests and looting of the protesters. Later, sources around the Podemos leadership stated the party does not condone the violence of the protesters. It does, however, condemn violent police actions in which a demonstrator lost sight in one eye.

The Ministry of the Interior responded with an official tweet: “We express our gratitude to the Spanish police and all other security services that guarantee our safety in case of disagreements caused by a small group of violent people. We wish all injured officers a speedy recovery.”

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