Police use truncheons to stifle Algeria protests

Truncheon-wielding Algerian police Saturday beat hundreds of pro-reform activists outside parliament and prevented another anti-government rally Saturday, the organisers said.

Hundreds of teachers gathered in central Algiers but police beat them back and swooped down on marchers gathered about two kilometres away in another protest called by the National Coordination for Democracy and Change (CNDC).

“The police stopped our gathering outside the parliament. The demonstrators received baton blows,” said Mourad Fertaki, the national coordinator of graduate assistants at middle and high schools.

Fertaki however said there were no injured and put the number of demonstrators between 2,500 and 3,000. They are demanding higher salaries and a higher grade.

In the other protest, some 30 demonstrators turned out on May 1 Square in central Algiers with the intention of marching to Martyrs Square some three kilometres (two miles) away.

Police surrounded the demonstrators, who included lawmakers from the Rally for Culture and Democracy and the honorary president of the Algerian League of Human Rights, Ali Yahia Abdennour, 90.

The demonstrators waved Algerian flags and signs calling for “freedom, justice and honour” before dispersing.

It was the 11th attempt since January organised by the CNDC to stage a weekly demonstration, along the lines of pro-democracy protests sweeping the Arab world, in defiance of a ban on rallies in the capital imposed in 2001.

The group was established after rioting at January 21 protests over the high cost of living left five dead and 800 injured, but has since split amid differences over the strategy for regime change.

Algeria has been shaken by protests at all levels of society with strikes by students, doctors and auxiliary police.

Ahead of last Saturday’s demonstration President Abdelaziz Bouteflika proposed reforms including changes to the constitution and electoral law, and enhancement of the role of political parties.

But he failed to mention any of the demonstrations in his own country calling for political and social change, and general reactions were critical of the 74-year-old president in power since 1999.

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