|A police officer kicks a protester in Rabat|
In Casablanca, where an estimated 15,000 people joined in protest, police forces blocked off the streets and sent in truncheon-wielding squads in to subdue the crowds.
The government maintains that the demonstrations have been banned and that the police force's actions are sanctioned due to the protester's "provocative" actions. Morocco has a history of allowing protests when they make formal applications to demonstrate, which the youth movement has not done.
European Union spokesperson Natasha Butler said "We are concerned about the violence used....We call for restraint in the use of force and respect of fundamental freedoms....We call on Morocco to maintain its track record in allowing citizens to demonstrate peacefully. We are following these demonstrations very closely, and encourage all parties to engage in a peaceful dialogue with a view to finding solutions to the issues raised by the demonstrators." Protesters have been calling for more democratic freedoms and job opportunities, as well as improved social conditions.
In the midst of my celebration of Morocco this month, it is sobering to consider the violence and tension that exists throughout the region and the many Moroccans who have been injured and lost loved ones in the midst of their fight for the freedoms I so blissfully take for granted. I'm glad this blog has given me the opportunity to not only explore the cushy topics related to cultural understanding, but to also recognize the reality that many Moroccans face.