ALGIERS — About 200 Algerian protesters braved riot police to rally in a central square in Algiers on Saturday as security forces clamped down on the capital.
Like in a previous protest a week ago, when 2,000 demonstrators confronted 30,000 riot police at the same venue, riot police armed with batons and shields, as well as armoured vehicles, took up positions throughout central Algiers ahead of the protest.
All roads leading to May 1 Square were blocked and metal barricades were set up to prevent protesters from entering.
A few protesters nonetheless managed to get into the square, where they chanted “Algeria free and democratic” and “People want the fall of the regime.”
Other protesters could be seen blocked on adjacent streets as they tried to join the protest, which had been due to start at 11:00 am (1000 GMT) for a march through the capital.
The rally was organised by the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD), a month-old umbrella group made up of the political opposition, the Algerian human rights league and trade unions.
Algerian demonstrators have been emboldened by fellow anti-government protesters in neighbouring Tunisia and in Egypt that ousted the leaders of both north African countries.
The CNCD wants the immediate end of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime, citing the same problems of high unemployment, housing and soaring costs that inspired the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.