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Spanish riot police clash with demonstrators after the arrest of a rapper

Teargas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs were fired by police at thousands of demonstrators in Madrid the day after a rapper was arrested in his songs on charges of glorifying extremism and insulting royalty.

Protests were initially peaceful in the capital's central Plaza de Sol square, with people clapping their hands in unison and chanting "No more police violence" and "Freedom for Pablo Hasél," the rapper arrested Tuesday in the Catalan city of Lleida.

But after a few protesters started tossing glass bottles and stones that they had loosened from the ground, police charged into the crowd with batons. Some protesters responded by setting fire to containers in the narrow streets of Madrid to build barricades.

The Catalan regional police, Mossos d'Esquadra, said on Twitter that 29 people were arrested in Barcelona, Lleida, Girona and Taragona.

Angry demonstrations at the center of free-speech debate as Spanish riot police arrest rapper

In Barcelona, on Wednesday, police also shot rubber bullets into the crowd, injuring a reporter from Reuters on the ground.

The Mossos retaliated by firing rubber bullets at head height as Catalan protestors started throwing projectiles at the armored vans. Wide stretches of central Barcelona streets were choked with smoke from burning bins as the riots seemed to stagnate.

Last Friday, Hasél, known for his radical leftist beliefs, missed a deadline to surrender to authorities to complete a nine-month prison term handed down in 2018, a sentence that created an outcry in Spain and prompted the government to declare that it will make legislation on free expressionless restrictive.

Police raided a university building on Tuesday where Hasél had barricaded himself and arrested him, sparking rallies and disturbances in Barcelona and other Catalan cities. Eighteen people were arrested by police while 55 were injured, including 25 policemen, officials said Tuesday.

Protest organizers used social media on Wednesday night to call for more protests throughout Spain, including in Madrid, to demand the release of Hasél.

Regional security chief Miquel Samper appealed to the demonstrators during a news conference to assemble peacefully.

A source in the interior department of Catalonia said that the police had "strengthened sensitive areas" to prevent further protests, but declined to provide more information. A police source said there was no attempt for the protests to improve security nationwide.

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