Police in Algeria have been holding back hundreds of anti-government demonstrators who have been trying to rally in central Algiers.
Protesters chanted “Algeria free and democratic” Saturday as they tried to reach a central square in the capital. The French News Agency says about 200 managed to enter the square before being turned back by police with batons.
Demonstrators have been calling for the removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The activists have vowed to try to hold a protest each Saturday until the Bouteflika administration steps down. However, the government has banned the demonstrations.
The Algerian president has been in power since 1999. Many Algerians see him as an authoritarian leader who has failed to ease widespread poverty and high unemployment — factors that played a part in sparking recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
Last Saturday, opposition activists held a largely peaceful protest, which was followed by a clash Sunday between stone-throwing demonstrators and police in eastern coastal city of Annaba.
Tensions have been high in Algeria since early January, when at least three people were killed in several days of riots over rising food prices.
President Bouteflika has responded to the unrest by promising to lift a 19-year-long state of emergency and making unspecified changes in his government.