ALGIERS — Thousands of people gathered Friday in Algeria's capital and other cities amid heavy security for what could be decisive protests against longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Wearing Algerian flags on their backs and chanting "Bouteflika, Get Out," diverse groups thronged leafy boulevards in Algiers and converged on three public plazas that have become focal points for a month-long public uprising against the country's shadowy leadership.
Algerians have barely seen Bouteflika in public since he suffered a 2013 stroke, and many are angry at a power structure widely seen as corrupt. Millions struggle to make ends meet despite the country's gas wealth.
As Friday's protests began, riot police fans lined side streets of Algiers and surveillance helicopters circled overhead, but the ambience on the ground was relaxed.
A group of young women delighted in taking selfies with smiling police officers. Shops along the march routes turned a brisk profit selling Algerian flags and pizza or honey-filled pastries. The diverse crowd included women with and without headscarves, and fathers carrying children on their shoulders.