More than 30,000 police officers block anti-government protest in Algeria

February 13th, 2011 - 1:04 am ICT by BNO News  

ALGIERS, ALGERIA (BNO NEWS) — More than 30,000 police officers were deployed on Saturday in Algeria’s capital to block an anti-government demonstration and clashed with protesters who defied a government ban.

Demonstrators, more than 250 according to the police and 2000 according to organizers, gathered in the central May 1 Square in Algiers to protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria since 1999. Demonstrators demanded “change and democracy, lifting of the state of emergency, the release of prisioners of riots in January, labor and social justice and liberation in political and media fields.”

According to the Interior Ministry, 14 people were briefly detained and then released, the state-run Algerian Press Service reported. There were conflicting numbers for those detained, however. According to the Algerian League for Human Rights, one of the main opposition groups that organized the rallies, said 100 protesters were arrested, CNN reported. Members from the Rally for Culture and Democracy and the National Coordination for Change and Democracy parties, and a foreign phorographer were also detained.

A group of about twenty people came together in front of the demonstrators and began shouting slogans pro-Bouteflika, local El Watan reported. Trains to Algiers were suspended and buses grounded by authorities in an attempt to stop people from joining the demonstration, the newspaper also reported.

Demonstrations in Algeria are banned under the state of emergency. Authorities said today’s protests were banned for “reasons of public order” and doing so was “certainly not to prevent any expression,” the state-run news agency reported. Earlier this month, Bouteflika said he will end the state of emergency, which was imposed in 1992 during the brutal civil war that killed hundreds of people.

In January, Algeria several days of rioting over rising food prices, poverty and high unemployment, in which at least three people were killed and hundreds injured. There were also at least three cases of self-immolation to protests the economic conditions.

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