On Feb. 12, an estimated 10,000 Algerians took to the streets in
violation of a regime ban on protests. The demonstrators clashed with
police, who outnumbered the protesters by three to one, and more than 400
people were detained.
"Bouteflika out," the demonstrators chanted in downtown Algiers.
Algeria has been ruled by a nearly 20-year state of emergency that bans
protests. But the opposition said the demonstration on Feb. 12 broke
a psychological barrier that would enable even larger protests over the
"The fear is gone," another opposition figure, Ali Rachedi, said.
The sources said the Islamist opposition was well-organized
and -financed. They said scores of buses, moving around police roadblocks,
brought young Algerians from all parts of the capital to the demonstration
The opposition, encouraged by the fall of the regimes in Egypt and
Tunisia, has formed an umbrella group called the Coordination for Democratic
Change in Algeria. The group has called for democratic reforms but did not
insist that the 73-year-old Bouteflika resign.
For its part, the government, which suspended most train service to
Algiers, played down the protests. Officials said only 1,000 people marched
"An attempt to organize a march was recorded today at May 1 Square by a
crowd estimated at 250 people," the Algerian Interior Ministry said.
"Fourteen people were detained and immediately released."