Thousands join rally for reform in Algeria
ALGIERS — Thousands of Algerians defied a government ban on protests and a massive deployment of riot police to rally in the capital yesterday, demanding democratic reforms a day after similar protests toppled Egypt’s authoritarian leader.
Heavily armed police tried to seal off the city of Algiers, blocking streets, lining up along the march route, and setting up barricades outside the city to try to stop busloads of demonstrators from reaching the capital.
Despite the heavy security, thousands flooded into downtown Algiers, clashing with police who reportedly outnumbered them at least 3 to 1. Organizers said more than 400 people were briefly detained.
Tensions have been high in this North African nation of 35 million since five days of riots in early January over high food prices. Despite its vast gas reserves, Algeria has long been beset by poverty and high unemployment, and some have predicted it could be the next Arab country hit by the popular protests that have already ousted two longtime leaders in a month.
The heavy police presence and barricades turned yesterday’s 3-mile march into a rally at the First of May square.
In Yemen yesterday, police with clubs beat antigovernment protesters who were celebrating the resignation of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and demanding the ouster of their own president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has promised not to run again when his term ends in 2013.
Hundreds of protesters tried to reach the Egyptian embassy in Sana, Yemen’s capital, yesterday but security forces stopped them.