Dozens of people were reportedly injured in Harare, Zimbabwe, Friday, after police clashed with rioters in the ongoing anti-Mugabe protests, according to the BBC.
Police in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, used tear gas canisters and water cannons to disperse protesters who had assembled for a protest march across the city.
They also reportedly assaulted people wearing red T-shirts, associating them with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, whose colors are red.
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The baton-wielding police officers cordoned off the site of the intended opposition rally dubbed the “mega demonstration,” whose main agenda was to demand electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 elections.
The angry protesters retaliated, setting alight tires on the streets of Harare and throwing stones at the police. They also burned a popular market allegedly owned by supporters of President Mugabe, according to Sky News.
Earlier on Friday, the Zimbabwean High Court ruled in support of the opposition rally, a day after the police had warned against any unauthorized demonstrations.
No Space for Arab Spring
Over the last month, 92-year-old President Mugabe has been facing serious opposition from a section of Zimbabweans, including his own party members, who are calling for his retirement ahead of the 2018 elections.
Friday’s rally was a continuation of the countrywide #ThisFlag protests, pioneered by the inspirational evangelist Evan Mawarire.
Pastor Mawarire, who is currently seeking asylum in the United States, after the Zimbabwean government charged him with treason, has urged Zimbabweans to continue with the non-violent protest until their issues are addressed.
But the longstanding Zimbabwean President has downplayed the ongoing anti-Mugabe protests, saying there would be no “Arab Spring,” referring to the revolutionary wave of protests and civil wars experienced in the Arab World in 2010.
“They are thinking that what happened in the Arab Spring is going to happen in this country, but we tell them that it is not going to happen here,” President Mugabe was quoted by Sky News.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was whisked away from the violent rally by his security detail, condemned the police for using excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, saying violence won’t stop the people from pushing for reforms.
“The people’s anger is very deep. The people’s desperation is very deep. Today’s brutal suppression of the people will not stop them from exercising their rights,” Tsvangirai said.