Bahrain protesters gear up for mass rally

After days of angry protests, demonstrators milled about Pearl Square, the epicentre of the movement, this morning waving the red-and-white flag of Bahrain, an AFP correspondent said.

Many protesters, mainly Shiites demanding an end to the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty which has ruled for two centuries, were chatting, preparing food, or relaxing in the tent city that has sprung up in the square.

"Nobody is scared of tanks or weapons," Ibrahim Ali, a 42-year-old mechanical engineer told AFP as he arrived for the demonstration.

"They will open their chests to face that," he added. Like thousands of other Bahrainis, he has spent most days at the square since the uprising began on February 14 to demand the fall of the government in the majority Shiite kingdom as well as serious reforms.

One bearded young man in an orange vest was accepting donations from motorists, which he said was for food being distributed at the square. Signs hanging around the square signalled that the protests were far from over: "We will not accept any dialogue with he who kills us in cold blood," declared one banner hanging from an overpass.
"A free state and a happy people," read another, while a third demanded the government "free all political detainees."

Security forces were not in evidence at the square today. Leading Shiite clerics have called on the demonstrations to mourn the victims killed by security forces, urging protesters to march en masse to Pearl Square.

Official opposition groups have stopped short of demanding outright regime change, instead calling for major reforms including the election of the prime minister and the creation of a "real" constitutional monarchy.

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