The demonstrators gathered in May 1 Square, chanting “Bouteflika out!” in reference to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria since 1999. Organizers said thousands had taken part, but news agencies gave vastly differing figures, from a few dozen to thousands.
The protesters were hemmed in by thousands of riot police and blocked from embarking on a planned march through the capital. Many were arrested, although there were also conflicting numbers for those detained.
By Saturday afternoon, the square was lined by riot police and armored vehicles and a police helicopter circled overhead. Principal roads into the center of town also remained blocked and far fewer people were on the streets than would be typical on a Saturday.
The Interior Ministry posted a statement on its Web site saying that 250 people had taken part in the protests and that 14 people had been detained and later released, according to Reuters.
Human rights groups however said the number of arrests had been far higher.
The media spokesman for the coordinating committee seeking democratic change in Algeria said that 70 people had been arrested and that about 30 remained in detention. Those detained included the group’s main organizers, as well as human rights activists, union organizers, members of women’s associations and groups formed to track the missing and killed during the civil war in the 1990s.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Algerian Security Putting Down Protests
Algerian protesters were met with riot police and a very strong police presence: