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In Bahrain, Protesters Declare 'Day Of Rage'

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Peter Kenyon is in Bahrain.

PETER KENYON: When today's planned Day of Rage began with only a few isolated incidents, some began to wonder if the huge police deployment had left people afraid to protest.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

KENYON: But by the afternoon, Bahrainis began to find their voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

KENYON: Fifty-two-year-old organizer Ali Jassem was quick to point out that the demand was not regime change but political equality - or at least some steps in that direction.

NORRIS: This is our demand. We don't want to overthrow the government like other Arabian countries. We want only improvement and progress in the political process.

KENYON: Across from the demonstrators stood a throng of riot police. After a half-hour or so of chanting - but no violence - from the protesters, the police suddenly charged, firing tear gas and what appeared to be rubber pellets.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

KENYON: Later, it turned out one of the wounded was the organizer, Ali Jassem, who lay dazed in the street.

NORRIS: They attacked us here. Kicked me here. It meant nothing - just we are protesting peacefully.

KENYON: This was not the way Bahrain's leaders planned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a political charter that was intended to usher in an era of reform and progress. But the foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, says if police brutality occurred, it was a mistake, not a deliberate tactic.

NORRIS: What I can guarantee you: There is no policy whatsoever of brutally dealing with demonstrations here and there. And if there's anyone who've committed a mistake, it will be punishable by law - no doubt.

KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Bahrain. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.