Observations of Street Justice

Since on my previous post was an observation of the Moroccan police in action, let me now address some other forms of justice I’ve seen. Over the time I have spent in Rabat, primarily in the middle to lower income neighborhoods of Mabella and Youssoufia, I have observed multiple occasions of what may be called “street justice.” Depending on the context, one might go as far to say “mob justice.” I am neither indicting or praising such action, nor do I know how effective it is, but I can say that the neighborhoods do police themselves.

Earlier this week, I visited a few friends in Mabella. If you were not already aware, Morocco has a burgeoning youth population and not enough jobs for the lot. Therefore, the daily activity of many young Moroccans consists of standing around on the corner or leaning against a wall, chain smoking and discussing what to do.
My recent visit to Mabella was no exception. As my companions and I stood on the corner, people watching, a man came out chasing two boys in their mid to late teens. My cohorts asked what was going on and began yelling as well, telling the two boys to get out of the neighborhood. The kids did not comply, but taunted the agitated group from a slight distance. Maybe they should have just left, as one guy bolted from the group after the kids, catching one, slamming him against a wall and kneeing him in the stomach twice. He released the boy and chased both out of the neighborhood. It was later explained that the teens in question had snuck into local moped repair shop and caused trouble. I cannot go into specific details. They could have been robbing, shoplifting, harassing customers, breaking stuff. I don’t know. Everyone was rather tense after the incident and I decided not to inquire further about the details of it.

There are other similar incidents I could go into, but I think I will wrap up here. The truth is, in all my observations of such situations, I have never been able to gather the full story and cannot judge how effectively this behavior solves crime in the neighborhood. I can say that while being surrounded by some of the toughest neighborhoods in Rabat, Mabella is peaceful and tranquil most of the time. What trouble there is, tends to come from outside and when it comes, people don’t stand by and watch. Except for me, that is.

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