“Morocco should start drawing some serious lessons from what’s happening around it,” said Bouchta Moussaif, who was among at least two thousand people marching alongside the city’s medieval walls in the capital Rabat.
Thousands joined protests in Morocco’s main city, Casablanca, in Tangiers in the north, and in Agadir on the Atlantic coast where witness Hafsa Oubou said several thousands were marching.
A government official said at least as many were protesting as on February 20 when interior ministry estimates were 37,000.
Unrest has swept across North Africa since December, toppling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, prompting international military intervention against Libya, and protests in Algeria.
“The king did not meet the demands made during the first nationwide protest, that’s why we are here again. He promised to reform the constitution and we all know how far those promises have got us,” Moussaif said.
Morocco’s King Mohamed promised on March 9 to reform the judiciary, create a stronger role for parliament and political parties and boost the authority of local officials, and appointed a committee to work with political parties, trade unions and civil society groups to draw up proposals by June.
“The Moroccan people want something that goes beyond the king’s speech,” said Abdelhamid Amine of AMDH human rights group. “They want their society to cease being one of subjects and become a society of citizenship.”
Added Moncef Haddari, 82, said: “We will demonstrate until we get a new constitution chosen by the people.”
Many women, some with hijab fully covering their faces, carried pictures of relatives jailed in the wake of a security crackdown that saw thousands of people sentenced to often long prison terms after 12 suicide bombers killed 33 people in Casablanca in 2003.
“My son has been on death row for seven years now. They have sentenced him to death because he prays. Death for being a good Muslim,” said Zahra Sahif, who carried a pink prison visit card with both her picture and her son’s.
“They did not even give him the chance for an appeal,” she continued. “What kind of justice is this? Is it because the Americans give them money?”
King Mohamed VI succeeded his father in 1999 and holds ultimate power in the country of 32.6 million. Some in the crowd carried his picture and said they wanted changes under which the country would remain a kingdom.
“We all are for our king. But I agree that the prime minister and the king’s two aides should get out,” said protester Dalila, referring to Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, Mohamed Mounir El-Majidi, the king’s secretary who has made a fortune from billboard advertising and Fouad Ali Himma, a classmate of the king and former deputy interior minister.
On March 14, however, Morocco’s riot police armed with truncheons broke up peaceful protest in Casablanca in an unusual show of violence, injuring 13 people and arresting 54 others.