Thousands March in Morocco

Some target parliament, prime minister in calls for constitutional reform
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2011 12:48 PM CST
Protesters face riot police during a protest in Marrakech, Sunday Feb. 20, 2011. Thousands of people marched in cities across Morocco on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Tarik Najmaoui))
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(Newser) – The protests sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa have made their way to Morocco, where demonstrators took to the streets of the capital today. An organizer estimates more than 5,000 people attended, demanding a new constitution, among other things; police put the number at less than 3,000. Protesters called for economic opportunity, education reform, improved health services, and assistance dealing with the rising cost of living, Al Jazeera reports. Many also waved Tunisian and Egyptian flags while shouting slogans like “Down with autocracy” and “The people reject a constitution made for slaves” during the peaceful march.

A group called the February 20 Movement for Change organized the protest, utilizing Facebook, where the group has 19,000 followers. While Morocco is officially a constitutional monarchy and has an elected parliament, the king has powers including the ability to dissolve the legislature, influence government appointments including the prime minister, and impose a state of emergency. In addition, many Moroccans feel their voices are not heard in parliament, the AP notes. Some protesters called for the prime minister to step down, but no one directly attacked the king. Similar marches in other cities were less peaceful: In Marrakech, a McDonald's and clothing store were vandalized, and in Larache, a gas station was set ablaze.

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