Tens of thousands of Algerians have taken to the streets to celebrate their country’s independence from France and continue calls for a new democratic leadership in the wake of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation in April.
Amid extra-high security and resurgent anger at authorities, crowds wearing Algerian flags on their shoulders, heads and waists poured onto the streets of the capital Algiers for Friday’s pro-democracy protest on the country’s national holiday to mark Algeria’s 1962 liberation from French rule.
Demonstrations were also held in at least a dozen other cities.
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 criticising the powerful military chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah.
“What shame a man who liberated the country spends the 57th year anniversary of independence in prison” read one banner. Calls to free Bouregaa rang out at protest marches in other cities where citizens marched.
In Algiers, 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.