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Despite police, Algerians protest in capital

ALGIERS, Algeria — Heavily outnumbered by riot police, thousands of Algerians defied government warnings and dodged barricades to rally in their capital Saturday, demanding democratic reforms a day after mass protests toppled Egypt's autocratic ruler.

Protesters chanting "No to the police state!" and brandishing signs that read "Give us back our Algeria" clashed with baton-wielding police in helmets and visors. Organizers said more than 400 people were briefly detained, but aside from some jostling between police and protesters no violence was reported.

The opposition said demonstrators' bold defiance of a long-standing ban on public protests in Algiers marked a turning point.

"This demonstration is a success because it's been 10 years that people haven't been able to march in Algiers and there's a sort of psychological barrier," said Ali Rachedi, the former head of the Front of Socialist Forces party. "The fear is gone."

Organizers said as many as 26,000 riot police were deployed to try to quash Saturday's rally, but that an estimated 10,000 people succeeded in jostling, squeezing and jumping over the barricades and gathering in the city center before the protest was broken up. Officials put turnout at the rally at 1,500.

Algeria has long been ruled by a repressive government and beset by widespread poverty and high unemployment — factors that helped foment popular uprisings that ousted leaders of two other North African nations in the past month. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign Friday after 30 years in power, and a "people's revolution" in Tunisia, Algeria's neighbor to the east, forced autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile on Jan. 14.

In Sanaa, Yemen, on Saturday. Yemeni police with clubs beat anti-government protesters who were celebrating the resignation of Mubarak and demanding the ouster of their own president.

Hundreds of protesters had tried to reach the Egyptian embassy in Sanaa, Yemen's capital on Saturday, but security forces pushed them back. Buses ferried ruling party members, equipped with tents, food and water, to the city's main square to help prevent attempts by protesters to gather there.

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