Moroccans stage peaceful pro-democracy protests
RABAT — Several thousand demonstrators marched peacefully in Moroccan cities Sunday to demand more democracy and social justice despite King Mohammed VI’s concessions, including the release of political prisoners.
Protest rallies began Sunday morning in Casablanca, Tangiers and Marrakesh, correspondents said, while others were scheduled later in the day in Rabat and Fes in response to a call by the pro-reform February 20 Movement.
The movement is named after the date of Morocco’s first countrywide protests that came amid the wave of popular uprisings that swept across the Arab world.
“We want more equality and less corruption,” “We want a king who rules but does not govern,” demonstrators chanted in Casablanca.
In Casablanca, nearly 10,000 people, according to an AFP correspondent, massed in the city centre and later marched to Mohammed VI square. Organisers however put the turnout at nearly 20,000.
“I am here because I want a more just Morocco in which opportunities are the same for all young people, particularly in the area of jobs,” said a 23-year-old university graduate who identified himself only as Mohammed.
Key demands of the marchers in Casablanca — February 20 Movement activists for the most part — were curbs on the powers of the king, an independent judiciary and steps against corruption.
In Marrakesh, an AFP correspondent said more than 500 people took to the streets to press for political reforms while in Tangiers, more than 2,000 marched to demand the resignation of the mayor, Fouad El Omary, and lambast his administration.
In a March 9 speech, King Mohammed VI announced major political changes to increase judicial independence and the separation of powers.
The next day, he established a commission tasked with proposing changes to the constitution by June.
Ten days ago, the king pardoned or cut the sentences of 190 detainees, including Islamist and Sahrawi political prisoners.