Moroccan authorities clamp down on former mining town protests

Moroccan authorities clamp down on former mining town protests
Videos posted on social media platform show clashes between protesters and police forces in an north-eastern province of Morocco.
2 min read
15 March, 2018
Protests broke out in December following the deaths of coal miners [AFP]

Moroccan authorities have cracked down on a protest in the former mining town of Jerada north-east of the country on Wednesday, as protesters clashed with police forces.

Videos emerged on social media platforms showing a tense standoff as protesters staged a new sit-in in the city.

Jerada's mines were closed in the late 1990s, devastating the city economically.

Activists posting on Facebook accused the authorities of assaulting the protesters, with local sources reporting clashes.

Authorities said a "confrontation" began after hooded youth threw stones at the police.

Injuries have been reported, although no figures have been released yet by the authorities.

Men, protesting against the security approach, went below the illegal coal mining shafts, described as "death shafts".

"Five people went down the illegal shafts. Four came out and the fifth refused civil protection assistance," authorities said.

On Wednesday, police headquarters in Jerada moved to ban protests in the province.

Following a series of accidental deaths in December, notably two brothers trapped in a mine shaft, protests broke out calling for economic alternatives for the town.

Operating permits issued by Moroccan authorities allows the sale of coal, resulting in hundreds of illegal miners risking their lives.

Thousands of people have left the city since Jerada's coal mines - once its economic lifeblood - were shuttered in the late 1990s. 

Social unrest was briefly calmed after the government proposed an economic plan, but after no tangible results were materialised, protesters returned to the streets in late February, demanding concrete solutions.

On Saturday, authorities arrested two leaders of the protests that began last December.

Tensions rose last weekend after authorities arrested four activists. The interior ministry promised "firm responses to aggressive and irresponsible behaviour" on Tuesday. Images posted on social media showed a large police presence.