Two hashtags, #FreeMusiciens and #Free_Lfen” (Free art), have emerged online to denounce the arrest of two street musicians in Casablanca's United Nations Square.
Rabat- Casablanca police arrested two street musicians, Badr Mouataz and Mehdi Achataoui, who were performing at United Nations Square on Tuesday, November 13, for allegedly “practising violence against civil security forces on duty.”
The two young street artists risk up to five years in prison based on the charges, according to Articles 263 to 267 of the country’s penal code.
“In case of violence causing bloodshed or injury,” the offender may face a prison sentence ranging from two to five years. “In case the violence caused amputation” or any form of handicap, the offender may face a prison sentence ranging from 10 to 20 years.
The musicians were caught off guard when the wali (governor) of Casablanca, Abdelkebir Zahoud, decided to ban street art performances in the area. The decision came after residents complained about loud music causing a disturbance.
The square is known for its lively, youthful atmosphere, thanks to the various street performances.
Disappointed, many other young artists took to social media to condemn the ban and the arrests, who are likely to spend the Eid Al Mawlid holiday (the prophet’s birthday) behind bars.
A number of musicians have organized a sit-in at the square, with banners reading, “The ban is not a solution” and “Street art in silence?
The musicians were not pleased with how authorities and complaining residents described music as “noise,” especially since many streets around the world are stages for many young talents and performers.
Cities across Morocco, such as those most visited by tourists—Marrakech, Fez, Chefchaouen, and Agadir—celebrate street art that is deeply-rooted in Moroccan culture and traditions, back to Al Halqa, the art of storytelling.
Other squares like Lahdim in Meknes and the ever-famous Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech are home to Al Halqa and other forms of street entertainment that have lasted for hundreds of years in Morocco.