Thousands protest in Algeria capital, break police cordon

Thousands of people protested for a twentieth consecutive week in Algeria’s capital on Friday, defying a major police presence and after the interim president renewed a plea for dialogue.

“Go, liberate Algeria!”, protesters chanted, waving the national flag, as they kept up pressure for regime insiders to step aside, more than three months after forcing longtime ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika into resigning.

Amid shouts of “Long live Algeria! Our claims are legitimate!”, hundreds of the protesters successfully forced their way through a police cordon and headed for the esplanade of the main post office, a symbol of the protest movement.

Other chants glorified the martyrs of Algeria’s war of independence, on what is the country’s 57th anniversary of liberation from French rule.

Around a dozen protesters were arrested, witnesses said.

Rallies were held in at least 21 of Algeria’s 48 regions, the official APS news agency reported.

Ranks of police officers wearing helmets and equipped with shields had tried to block the protesters and confine them to a pavement around 10 metres (yards) from the esplanade, while dozens of police vans were stationed near the post office.

Scuffles broke out at the end of the Algiers protest, when police officers grabbed the Berber flag — banned from protests — from demonstrators’ hands and removed it from streetlights.

Police used tear gas and charged against protesters, who responded by hurling plastic bottles at the officers.