Moroccan riot police forcefully dispersed a protest outside parliament Wednesday, where activists had gathered to call for the abolition of a ceremony of loyalty to the king, AFP journalists reported.
Dozens of activists, most of them from the February 20 reform movement, demonstrated on the main boulevard in Rabat, chanting “Dignity, freedom and social justice!”
The police responded aggressively, beating some of the protesters and journalists, including an AFP reporter, as they tried to scatter the crowd.
The demonstration took place just a day after hundreds of government officials pledged their devotion to King Mohammed VI by bowing down before the monarch at an annual “Celebration of loyalty and allegiance” at the palace.
Activists called Wednesday’s protest, dubbed a “Celebration of loyalty to freedom and dignity,” to denounce the royal event, which some say perpetuates a “backwardness” and “servitude” in Morocco that is inappropriate for the 21st century.
“We are calling for the abolition of this ceremony, because it undermines the dignity and freedom of Moroccans, and people want it to finish,” said Montasser, a February 20 activist at the protest.
“Even pro-monarchy people acknowledge that this way of expressing allegiance to the king is in fact a display servitude,” he said.
Speaking to AFP, the ministry of communication Mustapha Khalfi said he regretted the incident, and that the interior ministry had called for an inquiry into what happened, to clarify who was responsible.
The February 20 movement was born out of the wave of protests which took hold in the kingdom last year after pro-democracy revolts in Tunisia and Egypt toppled long-standing regimes.
King Mohammed VI, who has been on the throne for 13 years, moved to stifle the protest movement by introducing significant reforms that would curb his near-absolute powers.
The Moroccan authorities remain highly sensitive to public criticism of the king.