MOROCCO: Peaceful anti-government protests allowed to proceed, more planned
Anti-government protests against Morocco's monarchy in the North African country's two largest cities were allowed to proceed and ended without violence Sunday.
About 60,000 protesters gathered in a main square in Casablanca, activists said, but no riot police showed up to limit the crowd, as they have at previous demonstrations.
Riot police were also absent at protests in the capital of Rabat, where videos posted online showed thousands marching down a main road leading to parliament, chanting, “The people want to overthrow tyranny! The people want to overthrow corruption!”
"The demonstrators are marching now to parliament," blogger Mamfakinch wrote at about 1 p.m. while live blogging the protests. "No intervention by police, who merely regulate the marchers."
The king appears to be taking a softer stand against the demonstrators than in recent weeks, when riot police clashed with protesting crowds, allegedly beating them with batons. It appears to be an effort to limit activists' broadening support as they attempt an Arab Spring uprising similar to those of Tunisia and Egypt.
Activists emphasized online, however, that the lack of violence should not be confused with a lack of repression.
"These protests are taking place today at the same time the Makhzen [the Moroccan regime] are launching a campaign of unprecedented defamation and disinformation against the movement," Mamfakinch said.
Police were seen watching from a distance as the crowds marched in Rabat and Casablanca, called on the government to resign and demanded better jobs, education and healthcare.
Some demonstrators said undercover police mingled with the crowds.
Protesters in both cities waved posters of Kamal Amari, who on Thursday died from wounds he suffered during clashes with police on May 29 in Safi, about 200 miles south of Rabat.
“Martyr rest, will continue fighting,” they chanted.
Protesters could also be seen in online videos assembling in Safi to honor Amari and rally against the government.
Dozens of injuries have been reported as a result of the weekly protests in recent months. The demonstrations have been mostly organized by the February 20 movement, a coalition of secularists, leftists, Islamists and independents. The group is planning similar demonstrations next weekend, according to postings online.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo
Photo: Anti-government protesters gather in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, on June 5, 2011, with signs honoring protester Kamal Amari, who died June 2 from wounds suffered during clashes with police on May 29 in Safi, about 200 miles south of Rabat. Credit: Mamfakinch
Videos: (Top) Anti-government protesters march on parliament in Rabat Sunday, with little intervention by police. Credit: Mamfakinch / YouTube. (Bottom) Protesters gather to chant against the government and honor Kamal Amari in Safi, June 5, 2011. Credit: Mamfakinch / YouTube