Moroccan security forces fired water cannon at public school teachers demonstrating in Rabat and waded into crowds with swinging batons to block their route to the royal palace, injuring dozens of people.
Several demonstrations were held on Wednesday – marking exactly eight years after the birth of a Moroccan Arab Spring protest movement that awakened a spirit of activism in this North African kingdom.
Police officers charged protesters, beating several to the ground. Ambulances evacuated the wounded to hospitals.
The incidents came as thousands of public school teachers took to the streets of the Moroccan capital to protest against fixed-term contracts that have been in force since 2016.
The protesters, many who were wearing white teachers’ robes, also demonstrated against the limited opportunities for low-ranking teachers, who earn an average of $454 a month. They are also angry over temporary government contracts that do not cover healthcare or pensions.
“We are doing a peaceful march, but unfortunately, the police are cracking down on us. Teachers are falling to the ground. Teachers are being insulted. Our message is education. Stop the injustice,” cried out demonstrator Naima Kalaii, who came from eastern Morocco to join the protest.
A spokesman for the education ministry told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity that a meeting was expected to be held Monday with the teachers’ union to discuss their demands.
“We chose to hold our march on this day, which commemorates the February 20 movement, because it symbolises the fight for dignity,” said Omar el-Gasmi, a member of a group of teachers on fixed-term contracts.
The demonstrators gathered in central Rabat holding up banners that read “no to the dismantling of public schools” before some decided to march on the royal palace.
Calls for an “end to dictatorship” in the North African kingdom were also chanted.
The protest went ahead with backing from trade unions and Morocco‘s banned but tolerated Justice and Dignity movement.
They also coincided with calls by trade unions for a nationwide one-day strike in the public sector against inflation, demanding democratic reforms and social justice.
Moroccans did not bring down a dictator like counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, but they now regularly hold demonstrations to tackle challenges from water shortages in neglected provinces to sexual violence and police abuse.
According to the human rights ministry, Morocco sees an average of 48 protests daily.