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One youth-led group initially behind the call to march — whose name translates as the Freedom and Democracy Now Movement — canceled its plan to take part on Saturday, saying the movement was hijacked by leftist political parties and Islamists seeking to infuse ideology and faith issues.

The official news agency, MAP, cited a “weak turnout” — including at 2,000 both in Rabat and the northeastern city of Beni Bouayach, 1,000 in Casablanca, Al Hoceima and Targuist, and 900 in Marrakech.

An Associated Press reporter in Rabat estimated the turnout there at 3,000 to 5,000. Organizers put the turnout outside the parliament building at 20,000.

The Facebook page of the February 20 movement claimed tens of thousands of people marched in northern Tangiers, and said that rioting erupted in Safro, near Fes.