LAST night (Thursday February 18) saw the third consecutive round of rioting in Catalunya and elsewhere over the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel.
Once again, the streets of Barcelona were home to the fiercest clashes between protesters and police, but this time Valencia made the headlines too.
Live footage from the capital of the Valencian Community, coming through on Catalan regional television station TV3 at 8 pm yesterday evening, showed a police officer kicking a protester who was on the floor and holding up his hands covered in blood from a baton blow to the head.
Before then, hundreds of people had begun marching peacefully from the Plaza de San Agustin behind a banner calling for the release of Hasel and in defence of freedom of speech.
In the same way as protests in Catalunya and Madrid the night before, the violence started when a small group of demonstrators attempted to break away from the main march and head down a side street, triggering the first confrontations with the security forces.
Witnesses reveal that ‘four or five people’ began throwing bricks and other objects, which led to charges, injuries and arrests.
A police helicopter flew over the area while up to 16 vans of riot police appeared on the scene to close off all alternative routes in order to prevent skirmishes and destruction of property.
Meanwhile, in Barcelona, a large group of young people – but less than the night before – built barricades, smashed shop windows and set light to rubbish containers in the city centre.
Videos taken by residents showed how the flames grew to a spectacular height and began burning trees lining the streets, prompting neighbours to throw buckets of water out of windows and over balconies in an attempt to prevent further damage.
Eight people were arrested for throwing missiles at officers and other vandalic acts last night in the Catalan capital.
Meanwhile, six of the protesters detained the previous night were set free with an order to attend court every two weeks, while one of the demonstrators was remanded in prison awaiting trial.
The debate regarding the riot control tactics used by the Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, is currently raging in the media.
High-ranking regional ministers and force commanders have made statements confirming that a thorough investigation has been launched to review the use of foam bullets, which are suspected to be behind the injury sustained by a 19-year-old girl on Wednesday night, who has lost an eye (as reported by The Olive Press).
These weapons are only authorised for use below the waist – the same as riot batons – and are said to be extremely accurate.
Foam bullets were introduced as an alternative to the highly controversial rubber balls, which can rebound uncontrollably and cause all kinds of damage.