Rabat – Pictures and videos of Safi’s local authorities dragging a street vendor by a chain he had fastened around his own neck caused a wave of national anger over social networks. The authorities arrested the vendor on July 27 as part of the regular campaigns against the appropriation of public property.
Local authorities prevented a number of vegetable and fruit vendors from using the public street in the Corse district of Safi near the Al Baraka market. The vendors were protesting against the ban imposed by the authorities.
The viral pictures show an officer dragging the seller from inside a pharmacy by an iron chain and putting him in an auxiliary forces car. Several Internet users then launched the hashtag “#drag the sheep #drag the dog” to condemn the authorities’ behavior.
In a statement, Safi’s Prefecture clarified that “the vendor appearing in these pictures chained himself by the neck and tied the chain to his cart with a lock, in an effort to obstruct the work of local authorities charged with liberating public property.”
“In recent weeks, he has been mobilizing and encouraging street vendors to confront the authorities and to display their goods on the public street opposite the market,” added the statement. “He also threatened to commit suicide if he was prevented from selling on the public street,” says the Prefecture.
“Being subject to legal proceedings, the vendor fled and entered a pharmacy before being arrested by officers to avoid any suicide attempt,” the statement further clarified.
Safi’s Prefecture also mentioned that despite having the right to an allocated space to sell his merchandise in Al Baraka market, the vendor insisted on continuing to use the public street.
In a Youtube video, the vendor’s mother explained the vendors’ version of events. “My son just wants a place to sell his goods; he has been asking authorities in vain,” she said.
The mother described the arrest scene saying, “they dragged him in a savage manner; I’ve never seen them drag anyone like that, not even terrorists.”
“No mother in the world can bear seeing her child dragged in such a violent and degrading way,” she added.
In the video, she also mentioned how her “son has a spot in the market, yet he has been continuously expelled from it for the benefit of a retired woman.”
“You’re comfortable having a fixed salary, while you dragged him like a dog for being unemployed,” she angrily addressed officers. She further explained that “they’re doing this because he is asking for his rights. He hasn’t harmed any of them.”
Another Facebook video shows the market’s customers and other vendors condemning the act. One customer said that “the market’s selling spaces have been illegally granted to people.”
He continued, “we condemn this cruel and degrading behavior, and we request that the authorities give an official apology to the vendor.”
A vendor who witnessed the arrest clarified that authorities “told us to wait (for selling spaces) till Monday; we can’t do that, we need money to cover the Eid El-Adha’s expenses.”
“All they’ve given us are false hopes,” he added.
The vendor also complained that officers often “come and throw their merchandise.” “We’ve spent all our money on; it’s not fair,” he said.
With this incident, the issue of street vendors in Morocco resurfaced. In 2013, a Moroccan street vendor in Marrakech died after setting himself on fire, grieving over his confiscated goods.
Similarly, in April 2016, Moroccans were shocked by the death of “Mi Fatiha” (Mother Fatiha). The street vendor set herself on fire after officers had insulted her and confiscated her merchandise.
The same year, another street vendor stripped down to their underwear as a protest against authorities’ ban.