Security forces arrested 41 people during angry protests that rocked Algeria’s capital against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeking a fifth term, authorities said Saturday.
Police fired tear gas on Friday to block a protest march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.
The Directorate General for National Security (DGSN) said Saturday it had detained 41 people over “public disorder, vandalism, damage to property, violence and assault”.
Despite the arrests, protests around the country were largely tolerated by authorities, even in the capital, where demonstrations have been strictly banned since 2001.
The police did not give an estimate of the number of protesters, but a security official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP some 20,000 people had demonstrated nationwide, around a quarter of them in Algiers.
The official said 38 of the arrests were in the capital, and that no security personnel had been wounded.
Some demonstrators in Algiers scaled the outside of a building and tore down a poster bearing the portrait of Bouteflika, the country’s 81-year-old president.
French-language daily El Watan said crowds also gathered in the city of Ouargla where “thousands of demonstrators chanted ‘the people want the fall of the regime’,” the slogan of the Arab Spring revolts of 2011.
Activists had used social media to call for nationwide protests against Bouteflika after Friday’s weekly Muslim prayers.
Analysts on Saturday played up the scope of the demonstrations in several cities as unprecedented as well as the absence of any serious incidents.
“At the national level and with this size, taking place simultaneously and with the new use of social media, I think it’s a first,” said Louisa Dris-Ait Hamadouche, a professor of political science at Algiers University.