Algeria: Thousands Protest In the Capital despite Tight Security
By Staff, Agencies
Thousands of people took to the streets of the Algerian capital Friday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country’s powerful army chief.
Protesters gathered near the capital’s main post office square - the epicenter of Algeria’s protest movement that forced longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April - this time calling for the removal of Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah.
“The people want the fall of Gaid Salah,” they chanted, referring to the de facto strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria. “Take us all to prison, the people will not stop.”
Friday’s demonstration marked Algeria’s 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city center and along its main avenues. Roadblocks on major highways leading to the capital had been put up to stop citizens with so-called malicious designs from taking part.
The army chief Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital, in a bid to stem the flow of people attending anti-regime rallies.
As in previous weeks, the protesters made clear their opposition to the general and proudly proclaimed their defiance.
The tougher line on demonstrations comes after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah last Sunday announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika’s departure.
Gaid Salah has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president’s loyalists - including Gaid Salah himself - before any vote.
In the run-up to the rally, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.
Police also stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask numerous people for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.
A police helicopter hovered above, while security forces stopped cars headed toward the center from Algiers’ southwest entrance.
Demonstrations have officially been banned in Algiers since 2001 but the prohibition had been ignored since rallies started on Feb. 22 against the ailing Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term.