Unrest spreads to Morocco; police violently break up demonstrations

Monday, May 23, 2011

File:Rabat downtown at dusk time.jpg
Downtown Rabat at dusk.
Image: FesCityRaver.

Pro-democracy protests by Moroccans in the capital of Rabat and city of Casablanca on Sunday were violently broken up by police. Protesters called for a reduction in the power of the monarchy, a strengthening of the power of the Prime Minister and a reformation of the judiciary.

Police, armed with batons and shields, were seen violently beating protesters and chasing them away. The protesters in Casablanca chanted "[p]rotest is a legal right, why is the Makhzen afraid?" in reference to the royal court, and "Makhzen get out. Down with despotism." Others chanted "[w]e want our rights, even if we are condemned to death," before fleeing to avoid armed police.

The police and the government were acting to try to stop a mass camp out protest similar to that seen earlier this year in Egypt's Tahrir Square, which eventually lead to the falling of the government. One senior police officer stated "[w]e have been called here to preserve order because of this unauthorised protest."

The king called for a constitutional reformation on March 9, and the changes are expected to be announced in June. This is not the first protest that has been held recently. On May 15, protesters attempted to hold a rally outside intelligence headquarters in Rabat; this protest too was violently dispersed.