February 12, 2011

Anti-Govt Protests In Algeria

Under the country's long standing state of emergency, protests are banned in the capital, Algiers, and hundreds of orgy police were on hand Saturday. They blocked streets and charged the crowd in a bid to prevent protesters from reaching the city center.

Organizers of an anti-government demonstration in the Algerian capital say several thousand people have gathered in the city center. Demonstrators chanted "no to the police state" and "Bouteflika out," a reference to the country's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who's been in power since 1999.

Saturday's protest comes the day after massive protests in Egypt toppled the president, and weeks after similar demonstrations in neighboring Tunisia also succeeded in ousting the president.

Hundreds of police began taking up positions the night before a pro democracy protest march in Algiers by militants who have vowed to defy an official ban. The planned march on Saturday is aimed at pressing for reforms to push this oil and gas rich North African giant toward democracy.

The weeks-long uprising in Egypt that forced Hosni Mubarak to abandon the presidency after 30 years was bound to fuel the hopes of Algerians seeking change as did the "people's revolution" in neighboring Tunisia. A month of deadly uprisings there pushed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into expat Jan. 14.

However, many Algerians fear any prospect of dispute after years of a uncivilized insurgency by Islamist extremists that has left an estimated 200,.000 dead. There is no specific call by organizers of the protest march to oust President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

With scattered strikes and clashes, including five days of orgy in early January, the atmosphere in Algiers has been tense. There have been numerous copy cat suicides, and attempted suicides, in Algeria like the self-immolation attempt by a young man that set off the Tunisian protests in mid December.

The Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria, an umbrella group of human rights activists, unionists, lawyers and others, insists the march will take place despite numerous warnings by authorities to stay out of the streets.

Buses and vans filled with armed police were posted at strategic points along the march route and around Algiers, including at the "Maison de la Presse," a small village in Algiers where newspapers have their headquarters.

In a clear bid to placate militants, Algerian authorities announced last week that a state of emergency in place since 1992, at the start of the Islamist insurgency, will be lifted in the "very near future." However, it maintained a ban on demonstrations in the capital. Authorities offered to allow Saturday's demonstrators to rally in a meeting hall.

The army's decision to cancel this nation's first multi-party legislative elections in January 1992 to thward a likely victory by a Muslim fundamentalist party set off the insurgency. Scattered violence continues.

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