Algerians protest, celebrate independence day amid tensions
Thousands of Algerians took to the streets Friday to demand new democratic leadership and celebrate their country’s hard-fought independence from colonial France.
Amid extra-high security and resurgent anger at authorities, crowds wearing Algerian flags on their shoulders, heads, and waists poured into the capital Algiers for Friday’s protest on what is a national holiday to mark Algeria’s 1962 independence.
It’s the 20th straight week of demonstrations in a revolt that helped drive out longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April.
Protesters were also venting their indignation at the arrests last week of several activists brandishing Berber emblems and of Lakhdar Bouregaa, a veteran of Algeria’s independence war.
Authorities accused the activists of threatening Algeria’s unity by celebrating Berber identity. They also say the 82-year-old veteran is damaging the army’s morale by criticizing the powerful military chief.
At Friday’s march, authorities deployed an unusually large number of police, who confiscated Berber flags from protesters entering the city. Police surrounded the plaza at the central post office that has been a nucleus of the revolt.
Protesters hope Friday’s demonstration breathes new life into the movement, which is divided over how to achieve lasting change.
“Yes to a civilian state! No to a military dictatorship” read one sign; another read “No dialogue with traitors,” in reference to an appeal this week by interim President Abdelkader Bensalah for dialogue to calm the uprising.