Crowd attacks democracy activists
Pro-government demonstrators in Morocco attacked democracy activists protesting against constitutional reforms recently unveiled by the king.
Hundreds of youths pledging their support to King Mohammed VI scattered the pro-reform demonstrations taking place in a lower-income neighbourhood in Rabat, hunting them through the narrow streets.
After pro-democracy protests swept Morocco in February, the monarch unveiled a series of constitutional reforms on Friday.
Activists have said, however, they are insufficient and pledged to keep up their weekly demonstrations.
An hour before the protest by the February 20 reform group was set to begin in the neighbourhood of Taqqadum, the streets were filled with hundreds of young men riding in trucks accompanied by musicians calling for support for the king and his constitution.
When they encountered the democracy activists attempting to begin their own protest, they pelted them with stones and eggs and attacked them.
They were later joined by youths from the neighbourhood, some of whom hurled glass bottles at cars believed to contain activists.
"It is the same as the baltigiya of Egypt," said activist Zineb Belmkaddem, referring to the government-hired thugs that would attack Egypt's pro-democracy demonstrators during the uprising there months ago.
"They threw eggs and rocks at her and tried to take off her trousers," she said, describing the attack on a fellow colleague.
In some cases, the small numbers of police present attempted to shield the activists and a police van evacuated a group of them, but the attacks on protesters continued after they left the area. At one point, hundreds of young men chanting "the people say yes to the constitution" could be seen chasing after a single activist through the narrow streets.