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In Harare, police fire tear gas to disperse opposition protesters

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An opposition supporter faces police officers during a protest in Harare, Zimbabwe, on August 26, 2016. (Reuters)

Police in the Zimbabwean capital Harare fired tear gas and used water cannon Friday to disperse opposition demonstrators who had gathered to demand free and fair elections scheduled to be held in 2018.

The so-called mega demonstration had been organized by 18 opposition political parties, including the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the Zimbabwe People First, which was formed by former Vice President Joice Mujuru.

Judge Hlekani Mwayera of the High Court of Zimbabwe had authorized the march, which called for electoral reforms.

The 92-year-old president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has said he will stand again in the upcoming election.

Police blocked off the site of the protest. They also beat up people wearing red T-shirts, which is the color of the MDC party.

The protesters threw stones at police while others set tires ablaze. Demonstrators also removed the sign for a street named after President Mugabe.

A man carries a street sign named after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe during a demonstration organized by opposition parties in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 26, 2016. (Reuters)

Opposition spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the decision of the High Court was a "victory for democracy."

The opposition sought the court’s permission for protests after Zimbabwean forces violently suppressed another demonstration against police brutality on Thursday.

The Friday protest took place in defiance of warnings made by Home Affairs Minister Ignatious Chombo on Thursday to clamp down on "Western-sponsored" protests seeking "regime change."

Zimbabwe has seen anti-government protests over the past weeks, with demonstrators calling for Mugabe to step down.

The opposition says the president has failed to properly address issues such as economic decline and mass unemployment.

Mugabe, who regularly appears in public, has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980.

The opposition says the 2013 election won by Mugabe was rigged.

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