HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A women's activism group said Friday Zimbabwe police fired tear gas and baton charged to disperse Valentine's Day marchers, herding 195 people demonstrators into a police precinct. Later 25 were treated for injuries including broken teeth.
The Women of Zimbabwe Arise leader Jenni Williams said all but one — who was accused of indecent exposure — were released without charge.
The group traditionally marks Valentine's Day with marches in Harare and the second city of Bulawayo to give out red roses and teddy bears as symbols of peace and love in a nation troubled by years of human rights violations and economic meltdown.
Williams said protesters marched to government buildings to peacefully voice concerns about women's rights in the proposed new constitution, which will be voted on in a national referendum.
The women's activist group regularly protests social injustices, cost of living increases and food shortages.
Under the nation's sweeping security laws public gatherings require police clearance.
In the past WOZA members have been arrested for drumming kitchen utensils on pots and pans to draw attention to what they call "bread and butter" household issues.
Williams told The Associated Press on Friday the Valentine's Day protests were dispersed with "indiscriminate use of force" and passers-by and crying children had to flee the tear gas fired by police
Amnesty International said the police action coincided with a government announcement that set March 16 as date for a referendum on the constitution, followed by elections later this year. Continued...