Morocco erupts

The gruesome death of a fish seller has prompted protests across the country

Protests in Morocco after a fish seller is crushed to death in a garbage truck

The gruesome death of a fish seller in Morocco has prompted angry protests across the country. Video footage being shared on social media shows Mouhcine Fikri jumping into the back of a garbage truck to try to retrieve roughly $11,000 worth of swordfish that had been confiscated by police. He was crushed to death by the truck’s garbage compressor.

The incident happened Friday night in the city of Al Hoceima, and the New York Times reported that localized protests soon spread to Marrakech and other parts of Morocco. On Sunday, two government ministers visited Fikri’s grieving family and conveyed condolences from King Mohammed. Later that day, Fikri’s funeral was held, with hundreds of people walking behind his coffin as it made its way to the burial site.

The actions of the police in this case have been heavily criticized by the protesters, who say that heavy-handed treatment from law enforcement officers is an ongoing problem for many Moroccan citizens. One union leader involved in the protests alleged that police violence has been responsible for the deaths of several workers and students. Abdellah Lefnatsa told the Associated Press: “People are really pissed off and can’t keep being silent anymore.”

Fikri jumped into the garbage compressor to retrieve his valuable merchandise after police had confiscated it from him for violating the country’s strict seasonal fishing laws. Though officials have termed Friday’s incident an accident, critics contend it follows a trend of police abuse. King Mohammed VI has called for a “careful and thorough investigation.” 

 

The outcry in Morocco carries echoes of the protests in Tunisia in 2011 after the death of fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi. Bouazizi set himself on fire when his produce was seized by officials. The subsequent protests set off a wave of anger against officials and acted as a catalyst for the Arab Spring.

Souhail Karam, a Moroccan journalist covering the protests in Rabat, told VICE News that the demonstrations may continue. “The incident was a rallying cry for many who felt it epitomized how little has changed since the new constitution of 2011 … The protests show that Moroccans grow more aware of the leverage they hold over the state.”

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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