Algeria's protesters are seeking to resume weekly demonstrations suspended last year due to the pandemic. Thousands rallied in cities across the country, despite the president's appeasement last week.
Thousands of anti-government protesters took the streets in cities across Algeria on Friday, confirming the revival of their weekly pro-democracy demonstrations after a yearlong hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters in the capital, Algiers, rallied for the second time this week, despite a ban on large gatherings over fears of COVID-19.
"It's awesome. It's like the big Friday Hirak protests," one demonstrator said.
The crowds chanted slogans and carried flags and banners as they marched toward the city center after Friday prayers.
They shouted: "The people want the fall of the regime," "free and democratic Algeria" and "civil state, not military state" — a reference to the dominance of the military in Algerian politics.
Demonstrators were met by security forces who fired tear gas and used truncheons when a crowd forced its way through a police barrier in the capital.
Similar protests took place on Monday, marking the anniversary of the Hirak protests which began in February 2019 over then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term.
The rallying calls online earlier this week also urged everyone to wear masks at the protests after many during the Monday demonstration were seen without them. Many people still went unmasked on Friday.
The Hirak is a leaderless movement that has demanded a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria's independence from France in 1962.
The movement succeeded in forcing Bouteflika out of office in April 2019, after two decades in power.
They continued calling for a full makeover of the opaque system governing Algeria, with the military in the shadows.
The demonstrations were suspended last March due to COVID-19 restrictions, in what was seen as a major setback for the movement.
While thousands of people took part in Friday's march, the numbers were much smaller compared to the tens of thousands who regularly rallied before the lockdown last year.
Ahead of the Hirak anniversary on Monday, President Tebboune announced a government reshuffle and presidential pardons that led to the release of dozens of pro-democracy activists who were jailed for their role in the protests.
He also dissolved the parliament, paving the way for fresh elections, although no dates have been announced yet.
Hirak supporters were unimpressed by these decisions, saying the new government wasn't very different from the one Bouteflika headed for two decades.
"You have stirred in our hearts a revolution that can only be extinguished with your departure," demonstrators chanted on Friday.
adi/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)