Riot Police Destroy Protesters’ Camp in Amman
By RANYA KADRI and ETHAN BRONNER
New York Times, March 25, 2011
AMMAN, Jordan — Riot police stormed a pro-democracy rally here in the Jordanian capital on Friday, leaving one man dead, injuring scores of other people and dispersing with water cannons a 1,000-person tent camp set up the previous day to resemble Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Witnesses said the violence — the worst since demonstrations began in Jordan in January — came after some 200 pro-government counterdemonstrators using sticks and rocks attacked the protesters, who fought back. The riot police were called in, and they broke up the fighting as well as the tent camp.
The Interior Ministry said the man who died in the fighting, Khairi Jamil Saad, 56, an unemployed father of five, suffered a fatal heart attack, But his son, Nasser Saad, said in an interview that the riot police had attacked and beaten them both. He said he saw his father’s body at the hospital. His teeth were broken and he had signs of being beaten on his hands, legs and ears.
At least 100 injured demonstrators were at the hospital, and protest organizers said four of them were later arrested by police.
Three eyewitnesses said they saw distinct evidence of collusion between the pro-government demonstrators and the riot police. After the tent camp was destroyed, they said, the two groups sang and celebrated together.
The tent camp had been set up by a new organization calling itself the March 24th Movement because of its plan to camp out from Thursday until demands for reform were met, as had occurred in Tahrir Square. The organizers were calling for an end to corruption and autocracy and greater economic equality.
As discontent has rolled across the Arab world in recent months, King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his cabinet and ordered his new prime minister, Marouf el-Bakhit, to begin serious electoral reforms and reach out to all elements of Jordanian society, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
But the reform process has not moved quickly and pro-democracy forces have grown impatient. Jordan is a close American ally and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited with King Abdullah on Friday, flying to his palace and back by helicopter, with no direct contact with the political unrest.
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