February 12, 2011 by staff
Algeria, (AP) – Thousands of people braved a government ban on demonstrations and poured into the Algerian capital for a pro-democracy demonstration on Saturday, one day after weeks of mass protests ousted authoritarian leader of Egypt.
Some 10,000 people flooded downtown Algiers, organizers estimated they skirmish with riot police trying to block streets and disperse the crowd. Some arrests were reported.
The demonstrators chanted slogans like “No to Police State” and “off Bouteflika,” a reference to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power in this vast country in North Africa since 1999.
Under longstanding state of Algeria emergency – in force since 1992 – the protests are banned in Algiers, but repeated warnings from the government for people to stay out of the street was apparently fallen into the deaf ears.
The march comes at a sensitive time – just a day after an uprising in Egypt Hosni Mubarak forced to abandon the chairmanship after 30 years in power. It also comes only a month after another “people’s revolution” in neighboring Tunisia, which forced longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s exile on January 14.
The success of these uprisings, fueling the hopes of those who seek change in Algeria, although many in this conflict the nation marked the fear any prospect of violence having been through a brutal insurgency by Islamic extremists in the 1990s which has left about 200,000 dead.
Saturday March was intended to push for reforms to push Algeria to democracy and does not include a specific call to oust Bouteflika. The Coordinating Office organized it for Democratic Change in Algeria, an umbrella group for human rights activists, trade unionists, lawyers and others.
The police increased their presence in Algiers on Saturday before March. Buses and trucks full of armed police were stationed at strategic points along the road March and around Algiers, including the Maison de la Presse “, where newspapers have their headquarters.
Friday newspaper El Watan said roads were barricaded in Algiers, apparently to stop busloads of demonstrators from reaching the capital.
In an effort to appease the militants, Algerian authorities announced last week that the state of emergency that has been established since 1992, at the beginning of the Islamist insurgency, would be lifted in the “very near future. ” However, authorities warned that even then, the ban on demonstrations in the capital would remain.
Authorities offered to let the demonstrators to rally on Saturday in a meeting room.
Decision of the army to cancel the first parliamentary elections in Algeria in January 1992 to thwart a likely victory by an Islamic fundamentalist party triggered the uprising. Scattered violence continues.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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