MANAMA (AFP) – Thousands of Bahraini protesters returned to Pearl Square on Saturday, two days after a deadly police raid which expelled demonstrators from the central Manama square, an AFP correspondent said.
Police withdrew from the square as the demonstrators removed barbed wires and poured in from three streets, re-occupying the roundabout soon after armoured vehicles were pulled back from the streets of Manama.
“People want the regime to fall,” the demonstrators who gathered at the roundabout chanted and said they wanted “peaceful” protests.
Security forces hurled a few gas tear gas canisters at protesters flowing through one of the roads leading to the square, an AFP correspondent reported.
Some demonstrators were evacuated to Salmaniya hospital after inhaling gas, an AFP journalist at the hospital reported.
Many women and children were among the protesters who mostly carried Bahraini red-and-white flags, as well as white banners with the word “peace” printed in Arabic and English languages.
Earlier police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of demonstrators who arrived in cars and on foot at Pearl Square just as military vehicles were pulled away.
Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who on Friday promised a sweeping national dialogue once calm is restored, said in a statement that he “ordered the withdrawal of all military from the streets of Bahrain with immediate effect.”
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s general labour union on Saturday called an indefinite strike to demand the right to hold peaceful protests without the security forces resorting to force.
“The general union calls upon the workers of Bahrain to stage a general strike starting Sunday unless the army is pulled out from the streets and peaceful demonstrations are permitted” it said.
The army was ordered to return to their bases on Saturday afternoon, on the third day of its deployment following a deadly raid by police on an anti-regime protest in central Manama.