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Yemeni Police Clash with Protesters

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Police attacked peaceful demonstrators in Sana'a on Sunday
(Image by Nasser al-Mansoor)
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Thousands of grassroots anti-government protesters were attacked by soldiers in riot gear following a 2 mile long march calling for Yemen president Ali Abdullah Salih to resign from office. Mirroring Mubarak's tactics, plainclothes policemen also used sticks and tasers to disperse those that remained after the attack by riot police.

Following several spats with pro-government demonstrators on Sunday morning, protesters began the two mile march from Sana'a University to the President's Mosque. Originally only made up of a few hundreds of protesters, bystanders began joining the demonstration as they marched down al-Darie Street towards al-Sabaeen square.

"The people want the regime to fall," chanted demonstrators as they left Sana'a University.

"When I went to work today, my boss told me to go join the pro-government demonstrations in Tahrir Sqaure. That's when I knew that there was an anti-government protest that needed support," said Adeeb, an employee from the ministry of industry and commerce.

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"We are students, poor people, and hungry people who want to change the government. We have nothing to do with the political opposition. This is a popular movement," said Fahid, one of the students leading the march.

On Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, Yemen's bloc of opposition parties, the JMP, under the leadership of the Islamist political party Islah, led large protests attended by tens of thousands. Sunday's protests were the first politically independent demonstrations in Sana'a.

As protesters approached the President's Mosque at al-Sabaeen Square, 20 riot policemen were deployed to block the road leading to the square. Chanting, "Peaceful, we are peaceful," protesters moved through the first line of riot police. A bit confused, the police retreated back to their trucks and were redeployed further down the road to the President's Mosque.

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Echoing Egypt's protests, Yemen's demonstrators planned to stage a sit in at the president's mosque until President Salih relinquishes power.

Upon arriving at al-Sabaeen Square, soldiers in riot gear deployed razor wire across the road, blocking the entrance.

Demonstrators then turned back and made their way to one of the busiest intersections in Sana'a, the Rowaishan intersection. Protesters then stopped in the middle of the intersection to block traffic and draw more attention to the demonstrations.

After settling into the intersection, hundreds of riot police armed with shields and batons tore into the crowd, dispersing them in all directions. As demonstrators screamed, "peaceful, peaceful," riot police continued to chase them back toward Sana'a University. When most of the demonstrators had cleared the area, plainclothes police officers used sticks and tasers to attack those that remained.

"They ran into the middle of the demonstration, pointing to some of the leaders, and shouted 'he stole my phone!' After that, the police began arresting people one by one," said Marwan, a public health student at Sana'a University. "Now that they have used violence, we will be motivated even more in the coming days," he added.

"Police attacked a female journalist Samiya al-Aghbari as well as MP Ahmed Hashid," said Abdul Aziz Zarika, Yemen Socialist Party secretary general for Sana'a. "They arrested both of them but they have both now been released," he added.

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After the demonstrations were broken up, a small group of 30 protesters in front of the Ministry of Justice demanded that those arrested during the protests be released. "They arrested at least 100 people," said Ali, holding a homemade sign demanding justice for peaceful demonstrators.

Sunday's demonstrations follow clashes that broke out between groups supporting and opposing the government that took place on Saturday, Fed. 12th. In these clashes, 300 anti-government protesters were attacked with daggers and sticks.

President Salih has pledged to step down from power in 2013, preempting opposition party protests that took place in Sana'a on Feb. 3rd. 

 

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Jeb Boone is a freelance journalist based in Sana'a, Yemen. He regularly contributes to the Sunday Telegraph, the Independent, the Guardian's Comment is Free and Global Post. Boone is also the managing editor of the Yemen Times.

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