The protest began on March 15 when an estimated 1,000 demonstrators
poured into the market in Damascus. At least six people were arrested when
Syrian anti-riot forces rushed the demonstration with batons, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The protests show that recent predictions of the Assad regime's
immunity to the popular protests sweeping the Arab world were premature,"
Andrew Tabler, a researcher for the Washington Institute for Near East
Similar demonstrations were reported in other cities. The opposition
reported that security forces employed live fire, particularly in Aleppo.
"Dir Al Zour is surrounded like a ghetto by the Syrian army," the Reform
Party of Syria said. "No media or reporters are allowed."
Protests continued on March 16 in Damascus. Anti-riot police charged
about 150 demonstrators in downtown Damascus and arrested at least 15,
including a leading opposition activist.
"Shop owners at Maraja square in downtown Damascus spontaneously
confronted the instigators, chanting national slogans and
rejecting any attempts to spread chaos and destabilize the homeland,"
Interior Minister Mohammed Al Ali said.
In February, the Assad regime prevented mass protests inspired by those
that toppled the regime in Egypt and Tunisia. But opposition sources said a
series of protests were organized through Facebook and other social media
"The opposition is using different tactics," RPS said. "Instead of
naming locations, they have assigned different numbers to streets, corners,
and meeting places. It forces the regime to deploy a large number of
security forces to cover a whole city."