UPDATE: Early reports of tens of thousands of demonstrators, taken from news reports citing protest organizers, seem to be incorrect according to Algerian sources as well as news reports. Various reports put the protesters’ numbers at 2-5,000 in Algiers.
(if not tens of thousands) have taken to the streets in Algiers. Police have arrested and beaten so many demonstrators that jails are full and prisoners are being held in police station corridors or released. Of yet no deaths have been reported. The turn out has dashed most analysts’ expectations: most expected far less. But outside the capital and Oran turnout is less impressive. Locals in Annaba say a small demonstration was broken up early and the city is prepared for a happy Eid al-Mawild; Constantine’s several hundred protestors were sent home by the police. Algiers and Oran are Algeria’s two largest cities. Demonstrators have taken over the small 1 May and 1 November Squares in Algiers and Oran, respectively. Demonstrations have been reported in Tizi Ouzou and other parts of Kabylia. One of the Algiers demonstration’s key organizers and a leader of the CNCD Fadil Boumala has been arrested. One wonders whether the arrest of the demonstrations’ leaders will put down the revolt. The major factor to watch is whether or nor civilians start dying. The turning points in Tunisia and Egypt were when demonstrators were killed by the security forces. The Algerians avoided this in December and January and seem to be relying on mass arrests (in the main cities tens of protestors have been arrested). Thus far it seems the Algerians will need greater numbers to make a major impact on the swarms of police, political establishment and the limitations of the CNCD’s organizing methods. All of this will be thought about in more depth later.