Algeria: Protesters Hurt as Police Try to Halt Demonstration

This post is part of our special coverage on Algeria Protests 2011.

Several people were injured as police and pro-government gangs in Algeria confronted protesters while trying to break up a demonstration organized by human rights organizations and other civil society groups in Algiers on Saturday, February 19.

There are conflicting reports on the number of protesters who came to May 1 Square for Saturday's demonstration. Al Jazeera English reported that hundreds of protesters turned out while a human rights groups placed the number at 5,000. Police used sheer numbers and occasionally clubs in an attempt to keep downtown Algiers open to traffic. The relatively low numbers of protesters — at least compared to last week's demonstration that brought an estimated 10,000 protesters and 26,000 riot police — were blamed on the fact the government has banned large demonstrations. The country's train service was almost completely shut down.

Peaceful protesters encircled by police

"Protestants pacifistes encerclés par les policiers," by @moha_sam on twitpic

Opposition parties did not officially attend the February 19 protest.

Protesters in Algeria are demonstrating against corruption, high unemployment and an a rise in basic goods prices, even though the country is the fourth largest exporter of crude oil in Africa and an important producer of natural gas. Protesters have also called for the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999, and his supporters changed the constitution so he could run for election for a third term, which he won in 2009. The government says protesters make up a minority of Algeria's population.

As Loubna Aggoun argues that certain aspects of Algerian politics will make a complete change difficult:

However, the country's Prime Minister said by the end of February it will lift a state of emergency, which has been in place since 1992. The emergency laws came into power during the early days of a decade-long civil war that began after the government cancelled elections which would have been one by the Islamic Salvation Front. This led to a government takeover by the country's military — and a violent uprising that lasted until 2002. An estimated 200,000 people died during the conflict.

The country's recent history is a theme in some tweets:

@weddady: @lars_akerhaug In #Algeria the issue is a bit more complex, no trigger yet, but the potential is there. @themoornextdoor.

@lars_akerhaug: @weddady @themoornextdoor I would imagine that in #Algeria there is still a felt fear of more violence, bloodshed.

@HishLaHaine: Ones have to admit the situation in Algeria is different. The movement in arab countries is enough to make the regime fold.

@thewa7sh: Its amazing with all their money & ‘experience’ dictators still don't realize the power of the people or the definition of insanity #Algeria

@laggoun: I think in the town where my family lives in Algeria, 98% voted for Bouteflika. As if we were going to believe that.

Others commented on the police presence in downtown Algiers.

@fouad_marei: How come #Algeria is capable of preempting protests and marches every Saturday?

@forumeditor: AJE. Algiers Hospital staff have received orders from the security services not to issue any paperwork for the injured protesters. #Algeria

@mumke: State cracks down on protests in #Algeria مظاهرات بالجزائر تدعو للتغيير « 3arabawy

Translation: Algiers demonstrations calling for change

A video of the protests showing the large number of police:

Here is a different video uploaded Saturday, February 19.

This post is part of our special coverage on Algeria Protests 2011.


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