Algiers, Feb 20 (IANS) Several people were injured when police used batons to break up a pro-democracy rally in this Algerian capital, a media report said Sunday.
Algerian police brandishing clubs, but no firearms, weaved their way through the crowd of about 50 opposition supporters in central Algiers Saturday, banging their shields, tackling some protesters and keeping traffic flowing through the planned march route, Al Jazeera reported.
The gathering, organised by the Co-ordination for Democratic Change in Algeria (CNCD), comes a week after a similar protest, which organisers said brought an estimated 10,000 people and up to 26,000 riot police onto the streets of the capital. Officials, however, put turnout at the previous rally at 1,500.
The fresh protest comes on the heels of uprisings in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt that toppled those countries’ leaders.
Three people have so far been arrested at May 1 Square, the focal point of protests, according to Elias Filali, a blogger.
Large numbers of police were mobilised to prevent Saturday’s protest from going ahead. Dozens of police vans and military-style police armoured vehicles were dotted around the capital hours before the demonstration was supposed to begin.
A coalition of human rights groups, some trade unionists and a small opposition party are calling for weekly protest marches through the capital. The authorities have refused permission for the marches, citing public order concerns.
Unrest in Algeria could have implications on the world economy since it is a major oil and gas exporter, but analysts say an Egypt-style revolt is unlikely because the government can use its energy wealth to placate most grievances.
Algeria’s biggest opposition forces are not taking part in the protest movement.
The CNCD wants the immediate end of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s government, citing the same problems of high unemployment, housing and soaring costs that inspired revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.