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PROTESTS

Police van torched in Barcelona protest against rapper’s jailing

A police van was torched and looting broke out on Saturday as police and protesters clashed in the latest demonstration in Barcelona, 11 days after the jailing of a Spanish rapper in a highly contentious free speech case.

Police van torched in Barcelona protest against rapper's jailing
Image: Josep Lago / AFP

Spain has been rocked by angry protests since police jailed rapper Pablo Hasel on February 16th for nine months over tweets in which he glorified terrorist attacks, likened former king Juan Carlos I to a mafia boss and accused police of killing demonstrators and migrants.

Since his jailing, protesters have turned out most nights, with the demonstrations broadening to include other social causes, such as the EU's unemployment rate and increasing rent prices.

Several hundred people demonstrated on Saturday in Barcelona, the capital of Hasel's home region of Catalonia, according to an AFP journalist.

But in the evening the protest degenerated into acts of vandalism and the looting of bank branches, one of which was set on fire, according to Catalan police.

The Catalan police condemned “hooded rioters” who attacked “shops, and particularly banks”, adding that one of their police vans had been torched, along with many rubbish bins.

Around 10 people were arrested during the clashes, one of whom was “involved in torching the van”, the police said.

More than 110 protesters have been arrested since the arrest of 32-year-old Hasel, which sparked protests in cities across Spain, with the most pronounced in Catalonia.

It has also provoked a debate about freedom of expression, and driven a rift between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists its junior coalition partner the hard-left Podemos, which has supported the protests.

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ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

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