ALGERIA: Police crack down on rally, but protesters vow to press on
"Incredible tension on the streets. people standing around, police everywhere helicopters above. Feels like it'll break any minute," journalist Assia Boundaoui tweeted from the capital around noon Saturday.
Footage aired by Al Jazeera English about the same time appeared to show several hundred protesters converging on May 1 Square surrounded by a heavy police presence. Many protesters were shouting slogans and holding signs calling for increased freedom and democracy.
Saturday's planned protest is the second recent attempt to stage a massive anti-government demonstration. On Feb. 12, several thousand protesters gathered in the capital but were vastly outnumbered by security forces.
The protests are reportedly being organized by the National Co-ordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD), described by Al Jazeera as a "month-old umbrella group made up of the political opposition, the Algerian human rights league and trade unions."
The protesters are demanding an end to the government of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was reelected last year after amending the constitution to allow himself to run for a third term.
Algerian blogger and activist Elias Filali told Democracy Now that the main organizers will be marching every Saturday "until we get our main demand."
"The main demand now is the departure of the regime, the departure of Bouteflika and those who brought him to power," he said.
--Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Riot police run behind a protester during a demonstration in Algiers February 19,. Algerian police in riot gear used batons on Saturday to break up a crowd of opposition supporters trying to take part in a protest march inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world. Credit: LOUAFI LARBI/REUTERS