June 6, 2011 / 7:16 AM / in 6 years

Morocco softens line against pro-democracy protests

RABAT/CASABLANCA (Reuters) - Anti-government protests in Morocco’s two main cities ended without any violence on Sunday after authorities appeared to soften their line against an increasingly defiant pro-democracy movement.

Thousands of people converged on a main square in Casablanca but there was no sign of riot police who beat and injured protesters in previous demonstrations.

“They dealt with it tactically and cleverly in order to blunt the pent-up anger from police violence at previous demonstrations,” said Mounaim Ouihi, one of Sunday’s organisers.

Some 60,000 people took part in the demonstration, he said.

The abscence of riot police was also evident in the capital Rabat, where some 10,000 protesters marched on a main road leading to parliament, chanting “The people want to overthrow tyranny! The people want to overthrow corruption!”

The government’s softer stance toward the demonstrators reflects its awareness that a violent crackdown risks broadening the support base of a protest movement that is trying to emulate uprisings that overthrew dictators in Tunisia and Egypt.

Police watched from afar as the crowds marched in Rabat and Casablanca and shouted slogans calling on the government to resign and demanding better jobs, education and healthcare. Some demonstrators said undercover police melted into the crowd.

Protesters in both cities waved posters of Kamal Amari, who on Thursday died from wounds sustained in clashes with police on May 29 in Safi, 200 miles (300 km) south of Rabat.

“Martyr rest, will continue fighting,” they chanted.

An interior ministry source told Reuters the authorities denied the man’s death was related to the protest, one of several demonstrations that took place in Moroccan towns that day.

The source said the death certificate showed that Amari had died of cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. The attorney-general had ordered an inquiry and an autopsy would now be carried out.

Dozens of injuries have been reported as a result of street demonstrations that have taken place at weekly intervals in the north African kingdom in recent months.

The political landscape in the kingdom is dominated by a powerful dynasty that has ruled for 350 years.

In the latest round of protests on May 29, security forces used batons against demonstrators in several places.

Protest organiser Ouihi said the February 20 movement, a loose coalition of secularists, leftists, Islamists and independents, was planning similar demonstrations next weekend.

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