In Algeria, police flood streets to prevent Egypt-style revolution

(The Christian Science Monitor) Egypt’s revolutionary fervor has spread to Algeria, but protesters calling for the government’s ouster were outnumbered three to one by police on Saturday.

Thousands of Algerian protesters marched amid massive police presence in their nation’s capital Saturday to demand the government’s ouster, echoing the events in Egypt that ended the decades-long authoritarian rule of former President Hosni Mubarak.

The Associated Press reports that some 10,000 protesters faced off against 30,000 riot police in the streets of Algers, according to estimates by protest organizers, although Algerian officials put the number of protesters at around 1,500.

AP reports:

“Protesters chanted ‘No to the police state!’ and ‘Bouteflika out!’ a reference to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has led the nation since 1999.

The heavy police presence and barricades turned Saturday’s 3-mile march into a rally at the First of May square. …
‘This demonstration is a success because it’s been 10 years that people haven’t been able to march in Algiers and there’s a sort of psychological barrier,’ said Ali Rachedi, the former head of the Front of Socialist Forces party. ‘The fear is gone.’ “

The AP adds that a human rights activist said more than 400 people were arrested.
Al Jazeera notes that while there is often a police presence in Algers to defend against terrorist attacks, the numbers on Saturday were “unbelievable” according to Elias Filali, an Algerian blogger and activist.

“The regime is frightened,” Mr. Filali told Al Jazeera. “And the presence of 30,000 police officers in the capital gives you an idea of how frightened the regime [is] of its people.”

Filali accused Algeria’s government of being “corrupt to the bone, based on electoral fraud, and repression. There is a lot of discontent among young people … the country is badly managed by a corrupt regime that does not want to listen,” he said.

IN PICTURES: Exclusive Monitor photos of Egypt’s turmoil

Al Jazeera adds that Algeria has seen protests during the past several months over unemployment, high food costs, poor housing, and corruption.
Mr. Bouteflika announced earlier this month that the government was planning to lift its emergency powers and deal with unemployment and food costs in an effort to assuage the people. Al Jazeera chronicles Algeria’s political unrest since 1988 in a graphical timeline on their website.

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