Moroccan fish vendor’s horrific death in garbage truck sparks protests against police, recalling dawn of Arab Spring
Moroccans have staged protests across the country against police abuse after a fisherman was crushed to death in a garbage truck — an incident captured on video that some are comparing to the death of a Tunisian vendor in 2010 that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
According to Moroccan news website Le360.ma and magazine TelQuel, local police confiscated and destroyed Mouhcine Fikri’s swordfish, which isn’t allowed to be fished during this time of the season. Footage circulating online appears to show Fikri jumping into a garbage truck to retrieve his fish, before being crushed to death by the truck’s compactor to the horror of onlookers.
Fikri’s death Friday in the northern city of Hoceima has drawn outrage on Moroccan social media, and triggered protests on Sunday in several cities over what is seen as police violence. King Mohammed VI called for a thorough investigation.
The General Directorate for National Security released a statement denying its local officers were involved in Fikri’s death. Authorities haven’t commented on the circumstances of his death.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement Sunday that King Mohammed VI asked Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad to personally visit Fikri’s family and to ensure a “meticulous” investigation.
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane released a statement Saturday presenting his condolences over Fikri’s death, but urging members and supporters of his party to refrain from participating in protests.
The Moroccan Human Rights Association condemned the “heinous” incident and recalled another incident in Hoceima, in which five youths died during 2011 protests of the February 20th Movement.
That movement emerged amid the Arab Spring uprisings that began in Tunisia when vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after police confiscated his wares. Bouazizi became a symbol of struggle against unemployment, police abuse, corruption and authoritarian governments.
“People are really pissed off, and can’t keep being silent anymore,” said Abdellah Lefnatsa, a union leader from a left-wing movement among the more than 1,000 people protesting in front of the Parliament in the capital, Rabat. He claimed that students, workers and activists have died because of police violence in recent years.
Rachid Hilali, a technology project manager at the Rabat protest, said, “To me what happened in Al Hoceima should not happen in 2016. This way of killing people by the police, our grandfathers are used to it, but we should not be used to this. We cannot accept this kind of treatment anymore.”
Such protests are rare in Morocco.