Monday, February 19, 2007

Riot Police block Zim protest rally

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwean riot squads fired teargas and water cannon to drive stone-throwing protesters off the streets of a troubled township in Harare yesterday after preventing the main opposition party from holding a major rally....The Movement for Democratic Change said police had arrested more than 120 MDC members while blocking the rally, which some government officials said was to mark the start of a foreign-backed challenge to its authority at a time of deepening economic crisis.

Armed police earlier sealed off the sports ground where the rally was to be held and arrested dozens of people, witnesses said, defying a court order to let the meeting go ahead.

The High Court ruled on Saturday that the government must allow the MDC to hold the rally, rejecting the police argument that they needed more time to find the manpower to monitor it.

State media suggested President Robert Mugabe was worried that the MDC wanted to use the event to launch a wave of antigovernment protests.

Political tension is rising amid 80 percent unemployment, nearly 1,600 percent inflation, widespread poverty and food shortages. Many doctors, teachers and university lecturers are striking to press for higher wages....

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