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Defying Military Crackdown, Algerian Protesters Return to Streets

Defying Military Crackdown, Algerian Protesters Return to Streets

Friday, 20 September, 2019 - 17:15
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest to reject the Algerian election announcement for December, in Algiers, Algeria September 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Defying intensified military measures against their movement, tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets on Friday for the first time since the government called an election for December.

For the 31st straight week, the protesters made their presence felt in Algiers though this time they faced new tactics to discourage the crowd.

Roadblocks on major highways leading into the Algerian capital had been put up to stop citizens with so-called "malicious" designs from taking part. That came on top of a series of arrests of protesters over the past week.

"Generals into the garbage cans," crowds chanted. "Free the children of the people."

Army chief Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah this week ordered military personnel, or gendarmes, to stop people from entering Algiers to protest, and seize their vehicles. Roadblocks began going up on Thursday.

It was not clear whether any protesters were detained.

“We want Gaed Salah to be removed,” some protesters chanted. “We want a civilian state, not a military state.”

“We will not stop marching. It is a unique opportunity to change this corrupt system,” Adlene Kada, a 23-year-old protester, said at the march.

Gaed Salah has emerged as the authority figure since longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was ousted in April.

The army chief has long evoked plots against Algeria's security, but his get-tough orders came days after a December 12 date was set for presidential elections — just as he had demanded.

He claims protesters — who want elections on their own terms — are manipulated by others with "malicious" intent.

As in previous weeks, the protesters made clear their opposition to the general, and proudly proclaimed their defiance.

"Come look at us, Gaed Salah," said a crowd at the gates of the university, referring to the large turnout.

Protesters want all traces of the Bouteflika regime, mired in corruption, to leave and open the way for a new era for the gas-rich North African nation.

"It's a failure as far as Gaed Salah goes," said university professor Nouredine Bouderba, an expert on social issues, referring to the swelling crowd, reported The Associated Press.

Numerous arrests have been made recently, including three figures emblematic of the protest movement. At least one of them is charged with "distributing tracts that undermine national unity."

Gaed Salah is also thought to be the main impetus behind an anti-corruption campaign which has seen top industrialists and political leaders sent to jail — including key members of Bouteflika's inner circle. His younger brother and two former intelligence chiefs go on trial on Monday for plotting against the state.

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