Morocco:Hoceima rally held amid police crackdown

Protesters have marched in the Moroccan city of al-Hoceima defying a government ban.

The Thursday protest march, which was held amid tight security measures and the governing coalition’s appeal for peace, is the latest in a series of demonstrations that have shaken the country’s northern Rif region.

Organizers of the protest, who had dubbed the demonstration a “million-man march”, had vowed to go ahead with the protest rally despite the tight restrictions imposed by authorities.

Earlier, media had reported a significant police presence around Hoceima, which is the main port in the Rif, with police preventing people from entering the town.

Rif residents have long complained of neglect and marginalization by the central government.

In recent months their protest movement, known as al-Hirak al-Shaabi, has gained support among the region’s diaspora and many former Rif residents living abroad have returned to the city to join the protest.

The protest started after a fishmonger in Hoceima was crushed to death in a rubbish truck in October as he tried to retrieve swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season.

Calls for justice snowballed into a wider social movement demanding jobs, development, and an end to corruption in the mainly Berber region.

Since then, frequent clashes between protesters and police have resulted in the arrests of 175 activists, including the movement’s leader Nasser Zefzafi.

Tensions have eased in recent weeks and earlier this month security forces reduced their presence in Hoceima and another northern city, Imzouren, which had been on virtual lockdown.

Authorities have promised to do more to help the region.

By Africafrique and agencies

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