Algeria: Protesters Clash With Riot Police

Hundreds of protesters including four MPs have been arrested in Algeria’s capital following clashes with police, according to reports in Algiers.

Organisers of the anti-government demonstrations say several thousand people gathered for a demonstration in Algiers.

Many campaigners have been injured in the rally in the city centre with around 20 people being admitted to hospital.

Under the country’s long-standing state of emergency, protests are banned in the capital but people have taken to the streets to demand democratic change and jobs in an Egypt-inspired protest.

Meanwhile, in Yemen around 2,000 protesters clashed with government supporters with fists and batons in the streets of Sanaa to call for a similar revolution.

Opposition groups in Algiers who gathered on May 1 Square, near the centre of the city were encircled by riot police determined to stamp out any attempt to stage a revolt.

A police helicopter hovered over the neighbourhood and around 200 officers in helmets and armed with batons were at the square with dozens of police vehicles parked nearby.

The protesters have been chanting anti-government slogans including “down with the regime” and some waved copies of a newspaper front page with the headline “Mubarak has fallen!”

Government opponents had promised a weekend of “rage” but most local residents appeared to have stayed away.

Mustafa Bouchachi, a leader of the League for Human Rights, which is helping organise the protest said: “I am sorry to say the government has deployed a huge force to prevent a peaceful march. This is not good for Algeria’s image.”

The protest has not been backed by the main trade unions, the biggest opposition parties or the radical Islamist groups but there is still some grassroots influence.

Amnesty International has condemned the government’s refusal to allow the rally. In a statement the human rights group said:

“Algerians must be allowed to express themselves freely and hold peaceful protests in Algiers and elsewhere.”

The government says it banned the march for public order reasons, not because it is trying to stifle dissent and says it is working hard to create jobs and build new homes, and has promised more democratic freedoms.

Widespread unrest in Algeria could have implications for the world economy because it is a major oil and gas exporter.

But many experts say a revolt is unlikely because the government can use its energy wealth to resolve most grievances.

The resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and last month’s overthrow of Tunisia’s leader have led many to ask which country could be next in a region where an explosive mix of authoritarian rule and popular anger is the norm.

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