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ALGERIA: Clashes, arrests reported at banned anti-government demonstration

201121119338672884_20Algerian police cracked down on demonstrators at a banned Egypt-inspired anti-government march Saturday in the Algerian capital, clashing with protesters and arresting rally-goers, media reports said.

A journalist with the Agence France Presse news agency said that around 2,000 demonstrators were out in the streets of Algiers forcing a police cordon.

According to Algerian human rights activist Mustapha Bouchachi, Algerian security forces detained 100 demonstrators at the march, which had been called by the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD), an umbrella group of opposition parties and civil society movements.

“This is evidence that the authorities don’t accept peaceful demonstrations,” Bouchachi told Bloomberg News at the protest. "2011 will be a year for change. This is the first attempt.”

There were reports that those arrested include a deputy from the Algerian opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy, Othmane Maazouz.

Video footage, posted on YouTube and said to have been filmed at Saturday's protest in Algiers, appears to show police beating a protester with sticks and hauling him away. In the backgound, demonstrators are heard shouting, "The people want the fall of the regime," in Arabic, the same slogan chanted by Egyptian revolutionaries.


The CNCD had called for a mass protest Saturday demanding democratic change and more job opportunities, but only about 50 people had managed to get to the May 1 Square in central Algiers early Saturday, according to the Reuters news agency. The small group of protesters were seen shouting anti-government slogans and calling for the ouster of the Algerian president while surrounded by a field of police officers, added the report.

The Algerian French daily El Watan reported that the atmosphere was very tense at the square on Saturday afternoon, with police reinforcements being deployed  and throngs of supporters of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika trying to provoke demonstrators.  

Algerian officials had  banned the opposition march, and thousands of police in riot gear reportedly fanned out in the Algerian capital earlier on Saturday to stop the demonstration and prevent protesters from trying to stage an Egypt-style revolt.

As anti-government demonstrations spread across the Arab world, President Bouteflika announced earlier this month that the government would soon remove the country's state of emergency, which has been in place for the past 19 years. He also vowed to allow demonstrations, currently banned under the emergency law, to be held across the country except in the capital, Algiers.

Earlier this year, Algeria witnessed rioting over  high commodity prices and unemployment. The rioting  reportedly resulted in four deaths and hundreds of injuries.


--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Many Algerian demonstrators have been inspired by the popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. Credit: Agence France Presse. Video credit: YouTube

Comments () | Archives (11)

Power to the People, power to professor Obama as oppose to bums running all kind of countries with rudimentary educations :) power to president office!

Ha! A 19-year state of emergency that prohibits public demonstrations? Can you say oppression? Egypt's recent revolution will trigger a chain of anti-government protests in the Middle East and Algeria's is one of the firsts. I see this as democratization on a massive scale and it's only possible because of globalization. When things get serious, the internet is the world's largest telephone, only it can also spread video, discussions, and arrange protests. Mark Zuckerberg would be proud.

In this increasingly small world, dictators have nowhere to hide and the world will pull them from office like rotten fruit from the ground. Algerian President Bouteflika is definitely feeling the pressure right now. Say that every country in the world becomes democratized (which just may happen within the next 50 years.) Would the result be various organizations of conflicting democracies or a unified ultra-democracy? It's fun to inquire.

In the meanwhile, viva la revolucion! Now more than ever!

Then why not let all the opposition hold their demonstrations hadi freestyler, free from any problems, and if people don't agree, they won't come out? In Egypt, the demonstrations were suggested over Facebook. Lots of people came out, and instead of melting away, more and more people came out. Then, demonstrations broke out all over the country, showing the whole country was with the people of Cairo.

But President Bouteflika wouldn't permit something like that. He is afraid that what happened in Egypt, will happen in Algeria. Dictators fear the People and democracy.

With all the mistakes the US has made, people still look to the US for moral authority when it comes to democracy. The Egyptian People did, and I dare say, so will the Algerian People. Perhaps France might have some influence here; I'm not sure what it's relationship is now. I've always thought of Algeria as so very independent.

We don't have to invade a country, or threaten a country. Leading by example is the best way to influence other countries in a way that is in our best interests. True democracies are in our best interests, not One Man, One Vote, One Time.

Obama waited until Ben Ali and Mubarak left to provide support for the people's revolution. He has a chance to regain some of the credibility he still has, if any at all, by supporting the Algerian people in their pursue of freedom ande democracy

the quotas that they organized this event are not honest and they want to do and cause problems, and it's all for his interest, and they know not what they do, we love our president "Bouteflika ".
we are against this event

That is the most preposterous thing I have ever heard. You must truly be a twit to think that Sunni Muslims will somehow hand their countries over to Iran.

Some of you people are downright pathetic, instead of skimming through the newspaper, why not actually read it once in a while.

We need a Manhattan Project style program to break the United States' dependence on Mideast energy supplies. Then someday we can pay more attention to our own people's needs and less on the conflicts and flash points in that cursed part of the world. We have to get ourselves in a position of being able to turn our backs on that region if we wish.

Dave Shelter, it's time to stop watching Glenn Beck.

Until the connection between religion and government are severed, there will be no democracy. As Israel accepts more demands by the ultra-Orthodox based solely on religion, they become less democratic.

Eventually we are going to have a whole bunch of middle east countries in chaos. Egypt was the start, Iran's president Ahmedinejad is drooling over this, and preparing to create the new Union of Middle East Countries under Sharia Law. Remember when the Soviet Union formed and the long lasting cold war. The difference this one may be a hot war with Israel on the opposite side.


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