Jordan riot police clash with protesters, 15 hurt

By Dale Gavlak

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 15 2011 11:20 a.m. MDT

A protester shouts anti-government slogans in front of a banner that reads, in Arabic, "the people want to reform the system," during a demonstration demanding reforms and the resignation of the prime minister, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, July 15, 2011. 30 pro-government protesters have sought to prevent some two dozen anti-government demonstrators from entering a main square in downtown Amman, where an open-ended strike calling for reforms was planned on Friday.

Nader Daoud, Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan — Riot police swinging clubs clashed Friday with dozens of pro-reform demonstrators trying to set up a protest camp in a central square, injuring at least 15 in the most violent confrontation in the Jordanian capital since March.

The crackdown came a day after Jordan's prime minister warned he would not tolerate an open-ended sit-in. Organized by 11 youth movements, the protest camp was to mirror those at the heart of popular uprisings in Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere in the Arab world. Activists said they would try again Saturday to reach the square.

Several photographers and journalists were among those hurt Friday, prompting complaints that police targeted them to deter them from covering the protest.

The protests began after Muslim noon prayers in downtown Amman.

Initially, scuffles broke out between dozens of protesters and about 30 government supporters trying to keep the crowd from the central square.

Minutes later, riot police intervened, clubbing protesters in the front lines of a march of about 1,000 people, including members of Jordan's powerful Muslim Brotherhood. "The people want to reform the regime," the crowd chanted.

Several journalists were beaten, prompting complaints that the security forces were targeting photographers and reporters to prevent them from covering the protest. Earlier, police had distributed orange vests to journalists marked "press," to distinguish them from the crowd.

Mohammed Hannon, a photographer on assignment for The Associated Press, said police shoved him and pulled his hair. "A policeman shouted at me, 'Don't take pictures,'" Hannon said.

Police spokesman Mohamed al-Khatib denied journalists were being targeted.

He said seven officers were hurt, including one who was stabbed. A Muslim Brotherhood supporter, a 50-year-old woman, was clubbed on the head and had to be led away.

Other protests took place elsewhere in Jordan, with marchers calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf al-Bahkit, who was appointed in February.

In six months of protests, inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, Jordanians have demanded greater political say. Street protests have been much smaller and mainly peaceful, compared to elsewhere in the Arab world.

The prime minister announced on Jordan TV on Thursday that while he respected citizens' rights to protest peacefully, an open-ended sit-in would not be tolerated.

In March, an attempt by youth activists to set up a protest camp modeled along Egypt's "Tahrir Square" to press their reform demands ended in violence when they came under attack by government loyalists and riot police. One Jordanian was killed and dozens were wounded at the time.

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