An opposition protest held last night near the artificial beach was dispersed by police after the group tried to make its way towards the intersection of Majeedhee Magu and Chandanee Magu, the focal point of last week’s violent demonstrations.
Earlier this week police had announced they were restricting protests to the artificial beach and tsunami monument areas, and have since quickly dispersed those conducted elsewhere.
Demonstrators at the artificial beach last night carried placards written in English reading “Remove sex offenders/drug addicts from government”, and “Resign now”.
As the demonstration took place, five rows of police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel armed with heavy wooden batons stood between the 300-400 demonstrators and the route down Majeedhee Magu.
At around 11:30pm demonstrators, attempted to reach the intersection and were forced to split up by groups of police with interlocked arms.
Police eventually used pepper spray to subdue several protesters who attempted to force their way into the intersection, including dismissed Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Umar Naseer.
“Five or six people who tried to force their way through our shield line were arrested and taken to police headquarters, and then released,” Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said.
Minivan News observed a light police presence all over the city, with larger squads of riot police stationed near key locations such as the President’s Office and the Chandanee Magu intersection. Several MNDF troop trucks stood ready outside the MNDF headquarters, but the military presence appeared minimal.
Besides the opposition protest and groups of young men hanging around the intersection heckling police, Male’ was unusually quiet for late evening. Entire city blocks in the north-east of the city were closed off and Republican Square was deserted.
An opposition protest in the square that morning involving several hundred people was quickly dispersed by riot police, and covered by foreign media including Associated Press and Al-Jazeera. The protest was subsequently rescheduled for the evening.
Later in the afternoon, a somewhat carnival atmosphere descended over the city as the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) staged a flag-waving counter-protest of several thousand people near the tsunami monument, alongside a concert stage and a police road safety campaign consisting of upturned cars and burned motorcycles.
“Anti-government protesters claim the uprising is inspired by the Arab revolution, that people power is rising up,” reported Al-Jazeera. “But here on the other side of town are thousands of voicing pointing out that the revolution has already happened.”
In an interview with the news network, President Nasheed accused the opposition of trying to reinstate authoritarian rule.
“I don’t think these are spontaneous demonstrations. If you look at the events and incidents [this week] it is very easy to understand this is very well stage-managed and fairly well played,” he said.
Al-Jazeera observed that “while leading opposition figures are clearly at the forefront of these demonstrations, they deny this,” and interviewed DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.
“It is not attempt overthrow or change the government, it’s just raising voices,” Thasmeen told Al-Jazeera.
Note: Maldives coverage begins at 0:50