Protests in Morocco after death of fish vendor

Thousands of Moroccans held protests in several towns and cities after a fish vendor was crushed to death in a garbage compactor while trying to retrieve fish confiscated by police Oct. 28. The death of Mouhcine Fikri in the northern town of al-Hoceima immediately sparked widespread outrage on social media, and protests quickly spread to Marrakesh, Rabat and elsewhere. The protests, on a scale rarely seen in Morocco, were called by the February 20 Movement, which organized demonstrations during the "Arab Spring" of 2011. Angry postings on social media referred to "hogra," a term for official abuse and injustice.

The estimated $11,000 worth of swordfish was apparently confiscated and placed in a garbage truck because it had been caught out of season. King Mohammed VI issued a statement expressing his condolences to the family of the deceased and ordered the Interior Ministry to conduct "a careful and thorough investigation" into the incident. (BBC News, NYT, Maghreb Arabe Presse, Oct. 30)

The death of Fikri has of course drawn parallels to the December 2010 self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, which sparked the Arab Spring movement. Although news accounts did not mention an ethnic dimension to the new Morocco protests, photorgaphs showed demonstrators carrying the flag of the Berber people—a traditionally marginalized group now growing increasingly restive.