- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2021

MADRID (AP) — Police in Spain say 14 people were arrested in violent street protests in several cities following the arrest of Spanish rap artist Pablo Hasél, who had barricaded himself at a university with dozens of supporters to avoid prison and defend his fight for free speech.

Emergency services said Wednesday that 33 people were treated for injuries in the disturbances.

In the northeastern city of Barcelona, thousands of protestors set trash cans on fire and threw rocks at the police. Several stores and a bank were damaged amid chaotic scenes on one of the city’s main streets. Spanish National Television cited city authorities as estimating the damages at 70,000 euros ($84,000).

Smaller demonstrations took place in other Spanish cities. Further protests are planned Wednesday.

A 24-hour standoff between police and Hasél ended early Tuesday when anti-riot officers arrested him in northeastern Lleida University. He was taken to prison to serve a 9-month sentence for insulting the monarchy and glorifying terrorism in a song about former King Juan Carlos I and in 64 tweets.

His case has drawn much attention, with many artists, celebrities and politicians showing their support and demanding a change in the country’s so-called “gag law.”

Spain’s left-wing coalition government last week said it planned to change the country’s criminal code to eliminate prison terms for offenses involving freedom of expression.

The rapper has previously faced charges for assault, praising armed extremist groups, breaking into private premises or insulting the monarchy.

Amnesty International said Hasél’s case was the latest in a string of trials of artists and social media personalities in Spain under its 2015 Public Security Law, which was put into effect by a conservative government.

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