By Gene Zbikowski
L'Humanite in English
16 March 2011
Dozens of people were injured, some seriously, in Casablanca on March 13 after Moroccan police attempted to enter the seat of a left-wing political party, where demonstrators had taken refuge.
After forcibly dispersing a peaceful rally to demand political reform, dozens of demonstrators took refuge inside the seat of the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), a left-wing opposition party. In the early afternoon, the police attempted to storm the building, but failed, notably in the face of the demonstrators’ resistance.
Among the witnesses there were several journalists, including an Agence France Presse correspondent. They saw that dozens of people had been injured, some seriously. “I saw a pregnant woman and young girls savagely beaten by the police. The violence was exceptional,” said Hassan Hamdani of the independent weekly Tel Quel, who was present at the assault.
“We were holding a meeting of the political bureau and were getting ready to publish a very favorable communiqué following the king’s speech on March 9 when the police attempted to force their way into our headquarters, » Mohamed Bouaziz, a historian and one of the leaders of the PSU, said. “It was the prefect of Casablanca who gave the order. I consider this act to be a serious political error and an act directed first and foremost against King Mohammed VI, who promised to strengthen individual freedoms,” Mr. Bouaziz added.
About a hundred people, most of them Islamists belonging to the Justice and Charity movement, had been dispersed in Casablanca on the morning of March 13 by the police. The police prevented them from holding a rally for political reform. Witnesses at that point noted acts of violence and the first injuries.
“There were a dozen injured, including a journalist from the Arabic-language daily Al Ahdath Almaghriba, in the course of the forcible dispersion of the demonstrators.”
According to another witness, “four policemen were injured by the demonstrators.”
Outlawed but tolerated by the authorities, the Justice and Charity movement is one of the biggest movements in Morocco.
Mohammed V Square, where most demonstrations are held, had been entirely closed off by the police, who systematically stopped demonstrators and passers-by from entering the square.
On March 9, King Mohammed VI announced important democratic reforms, notably tending towards a strengthening of the Prime Minister’s powers and the “expansion of individual freedoms.”
On March 11, the Moroccan press hailed the reforms, describing them as “historic,” while speculating on the future of some members of the king’s inner circle. The announcement of the reform was also welcomed abroad, notably by the United States and the European Union.