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Moroccans protest mass vaccination rules; some skirmishes

October 27, 2021 GMT
Security forces stand guard after dispersing a protest against the government enforcing of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine pass to access public places and travel, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. Morocco's health minister defended the decision and said that the introduction of a vaccine pass had led to a more than fivefold increase in people seeking the jab, as opponents of the measure criticized it in parliament and on the street. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
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Security forces stand guard after dispersing a protest against the government enforcing of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine pass to access public places and travel, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. Morocco's health minister defended the decision and said that the introduction of a vaccine pass had led to a more than fivefold increase in people seeking the jab, as opponents of the measure criticized it in parliament and on the street. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
1 of 4
Security forces stand guard after dispersing a protest against the government enforcing of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine pass to access public places and travel, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. Morocco's health minister defended the decision and said that the introduction of a vaccine pass had led to a more than fivefold increase in people seeking the jab, as opponents of the measure criticized it in parliament and on the street. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Demonstrators took to the streets in cities around Morocco on Wednesday, some clashing with police as they denounced the country’s decision to require coronavirus vaccination passes to be allowed to work and enter public venues.

The decision came into effect Oct. 21 and stipulates that Moroccans must provide proof of vaccination in order to enter their workplaces. In a statement, the government has said employers have “direct legal responsibility” to enforce the decision.

The pass is also required to access indoor services such as restaurants and banks as well as domestic and international travel.

The North African kingdom of 36 million people has Africa’s highest vaccination rate, with more than 50% of the population fully inoculated. Earlier this month, the government also started administering booster shots.

But the abrupt and unusually widespread vaccine requirements have also prompted opposition, and led to big crowds at vaccination centers as people rushed to get shots.

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In the capital, Rabat, protesters gathered outside the parliament building and chanted slogans against the rule, arguing that it goes against fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Police formed a line to prevent the angry demonstrators from getting inside the legislature.

A few protesters clashed with police as they were pushed away down Mohammed V Avenue that leads to the parliament building.

Among protesters was Nabila Mounib, a member of parliament and the secretary general of the opposition Unified Socialist Party. She joined the protest after being barred from entering the parliament building for showing up without a vaccination pass.

Similar scenes unfolded in other Moroccan cities, with dozens of protesters taking to the streets in the country’s most populous city, Casablanca, as well as tourist hotspots of Marrakech and Agadir. They shouted “United against the pass!” as police pushed and swung batons at some of the demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them.