Travel sometimes leads you to places you don’t expect. Of course, often it leads you to the place you started from. While I haven’t been back to Hawaii since I left, Sefrou, Morocco is my home away from home since it is where my wife comes from and a cheap flight to Fez isn’t hard to find. Of course, I arrived just in time for the protests on February 20th and Sefrou made the news as one of a handful of places where things got out of hand. Lucky for me, I only saw it on youtube.
In Rabat, the capital, a crowd of as many as 10,000 people marched through the streets chanting: “Down with autocracy” and “The people want to change the constitution,” as well as slogans against the government, corruption and state television.
Smaller crowds also gathered in Casablanca, the nation’s business center. Video clips uploaded to Youtube overnight showed what purported to be groups of protesters in Tangier, Fes, Marrakesh and other cities Sunday, including several clashes with police and apparent vandalism.
A clip from Al Hoceima, a port in northern Morocco, showed a hotel gutted by fire and young men milling around among broken glass from the blown-out windows. Clips purporting to be from Tangier and Sefrou, a town near Fes, showed skirmishes with police. In the clip from Sefrou, a group of police severely beat one protester with clubs. It wasn’t immediately possible to confirm the scenes shown in these videos.
What started as peaceful protests across Morocco turned violent in some cities, especially in the North of the Kingdom. In the cities of Al Hoceima, Larach, Nador, Tetuan and Tangier small group of protesters attacked banks, police stations and small businesses as rallies were rapping up. The cities of Fes and Sefrou have witnessed cases of destruction of private properties and looting. Several local Websites have published videos of the damage and the destruction in the aftermath of the pillaging.
Some local community organizers are complaining of the lack of a strong security presence to fend off vandals. According to eyewitnesses some of the looters are not locals but rather outsiders who took advantage of the February 20 rallies to commit acts of violence.
Early analysis of these acts of pillage lead to believe that the elements behind the damages are not associated with the February 20 movement organizers.
We’ll see if anything comes of the protests, but as I’ve said before. I have the sense that things are constantly improving here and aside from the surprise of some violence in Sefrou, the protests seemed about the size and with the general lack of interest as expected. One question remains, why is it always Sefrou that has a problem?