Dozens of riot police were deployed onto a beach near the Moroccan city of Al Hoceima, on Sunday, July 2, to disperse a group of protesters. The activists had gathered on the sand to demand the release of detained activists from al-Hirak al-Shaabi, the popular opposition movement that has been causing unrest in the Rif region for the past eight months. The surreal scene saw protesters in swimsuits pitted against policemen in anti-riot gear. The odd images have been widely shared on social media.
A massive police presence prevented the activists from taking to the streets of Al Hoceima. Instead, they decided to gather on a nearby beach, wearing swimsuits no less.
This video shows protesters on the beach in Sfiha, located to the east of Al-Hoceïma.
"Where is liberty? Where is justice?” some shouted, while others cried, “Free the Hirak detainees!”
Another video shows the riot police standing in formation: gripping shields and truncheons while blocking the activists’ paths. Some of the police officers are even standing with their feet in the sea to stop the activists from coming any closer.
Later in the evening, activists announced that the police operation in Al Hoceima had been scaled back. News site Yabiladi reported that riot police had pulled out of Mohammed VI Square and returned to their barracks, located on the outskirts of the city.
Rif province, which has a history of rebellion, has seen mounting unrest and ongoing protests since October 2016, when a fish seller met a grisly accidental death in a rubbish compactor. Members of the al-Hirak al-Shaabi movement decry corruption and official abuses and demand serious development projects for their region, which they say has been marginalised.
Authorities have recently arrested several high-profile activists, including Nasser Zefzafi, a 39-year-old unemployed man who has become a leading light of the movement. Zefzafi was arrested on May 29 and imprisoned in Casablanca.