It is 11 o’clock, the temperature is rising and the first clashes between police and demonstrators take place. Gatherings are forbidden in the capital Algiers, which has been in a state of emergency since 1993. But today, 7 June 2001, hundreds of citizens, journalists and political party members have gathered to protest against the contempt shown by the State to the people of the Kabylia region. We are all Algerians, they say, and Algeria is one.
It all started on 18 April 2001, when police ‘accidentally’ shot dead Massinissa Guermah, an 18-year-old student. Until then, men in uniform had thought themselves beyond the law, gradually scraping away the last hopes of the young people caught up in the torment of a future without hope. Algeria’s youth were isolated – suffocating and dying, unseen by the country’s indifferent leaders.
The tragic death of Massinissa created a shockwave of violence across the whole of Kabylia. Clashes with police resulted in 132 deaths and thousands of injuries amongst the rioters.
Now the crowd here at the Place du 1er mai is dense. Opposite them, a security cordon formed by the anti-riot squad is ready to charge, to rain down on them truncheons and burning water jets.
After the teargas and the beatings, people disperse, each in their own way skirting round the memory of Massinissa Guermah.