Two people were injured in an overnight attack on police in Bahrain, authorities said yesterday, as activists called for a new attempt to march on the former Pearl Square of the Bahraini capital, Manama.
Bahraini opposition protesters seeking to highlight pro-reform demands clashed with police on Friday as Formula One Grand Prix practice sessions passed unhindered by the unrest.
Meanwhile, Bahrain said it was expelling journalists working for Britain’s ITV broadcaster for “violating the laws and regulations” of the Shiite Muslim-majority Gulf kingdom ruled by a Sunni dynasty.
The measure was taken “to ensure preserving the national security of Bahrain,” the Bahraini Information Affairs Authority said in a statement.
Supporters of the radical February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition, which had called for a “Day of Rage,” tried to march on the former Pearl Square, the focal point of Shiite-led pro-democracy protests in February and March 2011.
Police fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse them before they neared the area, witnesses said, but no casualties were reported.
Armed with Molotov cocktail bombs and stones, the movement’s supporters clashed with police in Shiite villages outside Manama burnt tires to block main roads, the sources said.
“Your race is a crime,” chanted the protesters. “No, no to the blood Formula.”
All of the violence was at a distance from the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, south of Manama.
Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of the more moderate Shiite opposition bloc al-Wefaq marched peacefully on Budaya Highway, 4km west of Manama, which links a string of Shiite villages with the capital.
“F1 is just a mask to hide the crimes” and “No to the illegitimate government,” their banners read in English.
Al-Wefaq had urged on its Twitter page that participants demonstrate in a “disciplined and civilised way that suits our people.”
Police did not intervene.
Security forces have been on high alert during days of protests to prevent clashes from marring the race, which is seen as a booster to the image and economy of the tiny Gulf monarchy torn by Arab Spring-inspired unrest.
Bahraini government spokeswoman Samira Rajab said: “Bahrain is ready to host the F1 and there are no security issues,” dismissing the protests as “childish movements implementing Iranian agendas ... that will not affect the race.”
In London, ITV said a five-strong team, which had the necessary visas to work, were filming when they were detained. It said they were questioned, released and questioned again before being told they must leave the country or face prison.
“Having filed a report last night, they were stopped while filming this morning and taken to a local police station for discussions with officers,” a spokeswoman said. “They have since been asked to leave the country, which they are in the process of doing.”