By Amira El Masaiti and Chaima Lahsini
By Amira El Masaiti and Chaima Lahsini
Rabat – On Thursday morning in Al Hoceima, Moroccan citizens from around the country appear to be determined to defy the Ministry of the Interior, who previously announced that the march scheduled for July 20 would be prohibited.
Several activists, social justice actors, and citizens have flocked to Al Hoceima from the neighboring regions as well as distant cities like Rabat, Fez and Casablanca to partake in the mass march.
“We are on our way to lift the siege on our brothers in Al Hoceima,” said philosophy professor and activist Hakim Sikouk, half-amused, half serious. Like many others, Sikouk chose to travel to the city on Morocco’s northern coast by car-pool.
Along on their way to Al Hoceima, many activists reported being stopped at numerous checkpoints set up by authorities. “The police and gendarmerie barracks registered the names of all those who enter Al Hoceima on red cards,” Omar Radi, an independent journalist and activist, wrote on Twitter.
Upon arriving to Al Hoceima, some activists affirmed on social media that the citizens of Al Hoceima offered them shelter.
Most of the streets of the city leading to Sidi El Abed and other neighborhoods were surrounded by security officers. Security barriers were erected 100 kilometers from the city, preventing many Al Hoceima-bound travelers from completing their journey to the city, sources told MWN.
Radi wrote on Twitter that “the roadblocks of the police and gendarmes are registering the names of all re-entering Al Hoceima on red cards.”
Rachid Belghiti, an independent journalist and political commentator explained to Morocco World News that “the Martyrs square and Sidi Abed neighborhood are thronged ‘with all kinds of security guards.’ Popular neighborhoods are jammed with police vans and plain clothes police.”
Radi told Morocco World News that “the Place des Martyres is completely surrounded by all kind of security forces.” Radi added that “plain clothes policemen are swarming the coffeeshops.”
Radi also said that “internet network is unusually slow,” stating that “we can barely tweet or send pictures.”
— Omar Radi (@OmarRADI) July 20, 2017
The authorities have also warned the city’s residents from participating in the march. They have also prevented taxi drivers from driving and serving customers in the areas adjacent to Al Hoceima, fearing a massive population drop in the city.
The Federation of the Democratic Left, one of the march’s organizers, issued a statement saying that “a [large] number of the members of the Democratic Left Federation were prevented from entering Al Hoceima, their identity papers and vehicles were confiscating by the authorities.”
The march, the location of which is not yet disclosed, is not expected to start until 5 p.m. Large media coverage is anticipated for the march, as most national and international media outlets have already entered the city.
Alongside the march, merchants and shop owners announced a general strike throughout the day.
On Wednesday evening, a mini-circle was organized in the Place des Martyres by a number of activists informing about the details of the march, its location, and how it will be run.
Elmortada Iamrachen, a prominent activist in the Rif protests, told Morocco World News, “My house is completely surrounded by police forces. I will be arrested as soon as I step into the city.”
In June, Iamrachen was arrested and prosecuted for alleged “apology to terrorism” before being released on probation to attend his father’s funeral.In the mid-afternoon, the activist posted on his Facebook page that the police forces arrested two young men in front of the CIH bank in Al Hoceima, and many houses are being surrounded by the authorities.
For El Belghiti, no one knows how will the authorities react to the march.
“We’re still wondering if they will enclave demonstrators as they did before, or if they will resort to violence,” the journalist said.