This video posted by independent news outlet Alakhbar shows that once again, tens of thousands thronged the streets of Nouakchott, despite (and for some, because of) the severity of last week’s attack on the Ibn Abbas sit-in. Some reports estimated that the crowd was even bigger than last time.
There was a lot of anger over last week’s events, not all of it directed towards the regime and its security forces. Youth were disappointed and frustrated that the opposition leaders, having called the 2 May sit-in, were not prepared for the inevitable attack.
This week, they were taking fewer chances. Youth prepared themselves. Teams of marshals handled crowd control throughout the event, and as night fell, look-outs relayed information back to the square about security force movements. Other teams distributed gas masks and set up ad-hoc road blocks to prevent police barricading the square and trapping them in the area, which is what happened last week. Demonstrators being corralled led to two hours of running battles on 2 May as people tried to escape tear gas and water cannon.
State security assembled over 300 men and 30 vehicles – once again including those meant for civic defence – along with water cannon. But the shock of the night was that they brought attack dogs. This is another first in a country which is rapidly witnessing a number of milestones being set.
Prior to the event there were the inevitable rumours of it being cancelled, not being granted a licence, or the rally being approved but not the sit-in, and so on. All very typical. At the square, people noted more drinks sellers than previously, assuming they had a lot of stock to dispose of, having speculated on being able to service the ruling party’s “Challenge” festival in Ksar on Monday, which was an unmitigated PR disaster.
Around 3am the opposition declared they were breaking up the sit in, and vowed to return next week. This left several hundred agitated youth who had been mentally and physically preparing themselves for battle in the square. It is a testament to their commitment to non-violence that these youth also dispersed. Today, the youth are recuperating and gathering their thoughts. There were a number of aspects of the 9 May sit-in that need to be explored, such as the appearance of controversial former coup-leader Ely Ould Mohammed Vall, and the decision to abandon the sit-in, that must be evaluated. The youth movements who have until now shown support for this initiative, despite their reservations about the obvious political bias, will be considering their positions. For the ideologically prejudiced, last night confronted them with unpleasant truths: everything is political, and politics is the art of compromise.
Sly old dogs on the podium, and snarling police dogs on the perimeter. Uncomfortable prospects whichever way you look.
Some photos from this blog post in Arabic about the event:
Early part of the evening, and electricity was still working, but later came reports of phone and internet disruption
Water cannon spotted on Gamal Abdel Nasser street; news and photo relayed to the square
Even more marshals, in distinctive orange waistcoats, were deployed this week
Several photos posted on FaceBook..
.. and on Twitter
More scenes of people moving towards Ibn Abbas square to begin the sit-in
A great shot of some members of the February 25 Movement
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