No more than 50 people chanted anti-government slogans in a square in the Algerian capital on Saturday as they were encircled by hundreds of police. The opposition called for a mass protest rally to demand reforms and jobs, but most Algerians so far stayed away especially after thousands of police in riot gear were moved to the capital to enforce a ban on the march.
According to Reuters, the small group of protesters on May 1 Square, near the centre of the city, shouted "Bouteflika Out!" -- -- and some waved copies of a newspaper front page with the headline "Mubarak has fallen!"
The protest march was scheduled to begin at May 1 Square at 11 a.m.. When a handful of protesters arrived there two hours in advance, police detained some of them and encircled the rest. It was reported that Algerian police arrested Saturday Ali Belhadj, the former leader of the Algerian Salvation Front after he joined the protester in central Algiers. Belhadj, who spent 12 years in prison on charges of incitement to violence, decided to participate in the protests to be held in the capital.
A small counter-protest started up nearby, with people chanting "We want peace not chaos!" and "Algeria is not Egypt!" Participants said they wish to avoid a repeated security crisis like the one that occurred in the 1990s.