Thousands of people demonstrated in Algiers for the 31st consecutive Friday of mobilization despite a large deployment of police and a few days after the announcement of a presidential election in December, a vote rejected by the protest movement.
This movement excludes any election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s successor, pushed to resignation in April under the combined pressure of the street and the army, without a prior departure from the “system” in power for two decades.
If at the beginning of the afternoon – when the demonstrations usually begin – the streets of the Algerian capital were almost empty, by mid afternoon they filled up as thousands of people took to the streets of the city.
The people will not stop.
“The people want to overthrow Gaid Salah”, “Put us all in prison”, “The people will not stop,” they chanted, referring to Ahmed Gaïd Salah, Chief of Staff of the army.
ArrestsBefore the start of the demonstration, AFP photographers saw members of the security forces arrest several demonstrators near the Place de la Grande Poste, the flagship meeting point of the protest movement, in the city center. .
The police have increased in recent weeks arrests in Algiers before the start of Friday’s weekly demonstrations. Three leaders of the protest have been arrested recently in the span of a week.
The mobilization at the rendezvous despite a deployment of security forces was even more important than on previous Fridays.
There was high police presence in the center of the capital and on the streets leading to it. It stopped vehicles in the main streets of the capital, including the Grande Poste.
An AFP journalist saw plainclothes police examine the identity papers of many passersby, and some of them were arrested and put in trucks.
ChaosAt the southwestern entrance of the capital, members of the security forces stopped cars coming from outside Algiers.
Idir, a protester from Tizi Ouzou, about 100 km east of Algiers, managed to reach the capital.
“I left at five in the morning from Tizi Ouzou, where the roads were empty, but at the checkpoint, I saw dozens of cars being controlled,” he told AFP . “I managed to escape because my license plate is registered in Algiers,” he added.
On social media, activists have reported a traffic jam stretching “several kilometers” at the entrances of the capital. A police helicopter has flown over the capital since morning.
The demonstrators dispersed without incident around 17:00 (16:00 GMT), chanting: “We will return (demonstrate) Tuesday with the students.”
Massive protests have also been held in several parts of the country, including Constantine, Béjaïa, Tizi Ouzou and Oran, according to images published on social networks.
Ignoring the rejection by the protest movement to hold an election, the government has announced a new date for the presidential election, set for December 12.
The presidential election to vote in a successor to Mr. Bouteflika, originally scheduled for July 4, had to be canceled, no candidate declared, faced with the scale of the dispute.
“There is no need for anyone to look for false pretenses to question the integrity of the electoral process or hinder,” said Wednesday during a speech Mr. Gaid Salah.
He added that the army is now preventing protesters from other regions to join the processions in Algiers.
“Their real objective is to mislead public opinion … to self-proclaim false as the voice of the people,” he echoed.
This measure was denounced as “illegal” by Me Said Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH).
According to him, there is “no regulation in this sense, quite the contrary: the Constitution guarantees Algerian citizens equality and freedom of movement.”