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“The Regime is Running Scared:” Algerian Forces Crack Down on Pro-Democracy Protests

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Algeria has also seen a recent wave of protests. Witnesses say riot police have blocked a planned march in the capital Algiers and arrested hundreds of demonstrators. “The regime is running scared,” says Algerian blogger and activist Elias Filali. “I have never seen a heavier police presence in my entire life.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to move on to another area right now. The North African nation of Algeria has also seen a recent wave of protests. Over 400 demonstrators were arrested this weekend in the capital Algiers. Witnesses said that thousands of riot police had blocked demonstrators from carrying out a planned march in the center of the city. The Algerian government has said it will end its 19-year-old state of emergency within days.

To talk more about what’s happening in Algeria, we’re joined by Elias Filali, a blogger and activist who has been helping to organize the protests.

What is happening in Algiers right now, Elias?

ELIAS FILALI: Well, after the Saturday event, which — what was it? — a march, was not allowed, we had a — Algiers had seen the presence of 35,000 police officers with their anti-riot gear and hundreds of anti-gear police vehicles around the capital, so access routes to the square, the main square where the march was supposed to take place, was closed. There was a heavy, a very — I have never seen a heavier police presence in my entire life. So that shows you — that sort of — in a sense, it gives you a clear sort of picture of what is happening within the regime. The regime is scared, is running scared from an upheaval.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain the context to this upheaval that is taking place, this uprising that’s taking place in Algeria? Give us a little history.

ELIAS FILALI: To be honest with you, Algeria is one of the first countries that rised against the dictatorship here. In 1988, we had — before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Algerians rose against, protested against the government, against the corruption. But unfortunately, it was a very short sort of — it was a couple of years when we have seen an opening for political parties, for freedom of expression. And then, soon after the elections, in which saw the FIS, the Islamic front, won in basically what the world saw as a free election, the military intervened and stopped the process of — to stop the process. And since then, Algeria has been living in the state of emergency, which is anti-constitutional, because the state of emergency we’re talking about has been extended in 1993, but never been extended again. So, Bouteflika has just promised that he will lift an already anti — this was, in itself, anti-constitutional. So, for now, the main organizers are saying, we will be marching every Saturday ’til we get our main demand. The main demand now is the departure of the regime, the departure of Bouteflika and those who brought him to power.

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