Dozens of people have been arrested since Tuesday night when angry demonstrations erupted after police detained Pablo Hasél who had been holed up in a university in Catalonia in a highly contentious free speech case.
Hasél was arrested after failing to turn himself in on Friday to start a nine-month sentence over tweets calling former king Juan Carlos I a mafia boss and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants.
Carlos left Spain aboard a private jet last August under a cloud of financial scandal involving Saudi Arabia. He is reportedly staying at Abu Dhabi’s exclusive Emirates Palace Hotel.
Hundreds of artists have rallied to Hasél’s cause. Amnesty International said jailing him for song lyrics and tweets was “unjust and disproportionate” while campaigners say prosecuting him is a dangerous assault on free speech.
The center of the Catalan capital was filled with burning rubbish bins and furniture overnight as hooded youths threw stones and bottles at police vans and damaged some vehicles.
Protesters also took to the streets in several cities in the Basque Country.
Since the protests started, police in Madrid, Barcelona and other Catalan cities have fired tear gas, foam and sound bombs at the growing number of protesters.
The protests come amid the pro-independence movement in Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, gaining traction once more.
On Sunday, Catalonia’s separatist parties won more than half of the votes in the region’s parliamentary election, re-igniting the independence conflict between Barcelona and Madrid.
In November 2014, Catalans held a symbolic referendum in which more than 80 percent of participants voted for independence from Spain.
On October 27, 2017, Catalonia declared independence from Spain. Immediately after the declaration, Spain’s Senate dismissed the Catalan government and imposed Madrid’s direct rule over Barcelona.