As thousands rally in Algeria for the sixth consecutive Friday of protests against the country’s political regime, a new message is being passed down the line: Keep the demonstrations environmentally friendly.
Protesters came prepared with signs, comfortable shoes and, for some, rubbish bags. Shouting “nadhifa!” (“clean!”) and “hadhariya!” (“civic!”) along with the crowd’s rallying cries of “silmya!” (“peaceful!”), young activists are trying to make the movement more environmentally conscious and cleaning up litter left behind in the streets.
Protesters in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria, putting on gloves as they get ready to clean the streets.
“Political and environmental awareness go hand in hand”
In Sidi Bel Abbès, near the northern coast of Algeria, Nacerdinne Rahmoune, 23, and his friends have been taking the concept of what he calls “Algerian plogging”, or jogging and picking up rubbish along the way, to the recent protests. A construction student who is training to be an electrician, Rahmoune is one of the many young activists calling on the protests to be greener.
We’ve been plogging for the two Fridays and we’re definitely planning to continue. We take rubbish bags and gloves, and during the protests, we march, we sing and we pick up garbage along the way.
Our Observer Nacerdinne Rahmoune during a protest in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria.
Some of our members are already involved in environmental causes and clubs at university. There’s a huge amount of garbage in the streets and we’ve been trying to raise awareness through action, and not just speeches. It’s been working pretty well. Other protesters have started collecting garbage themselves.
For us, there is an undeniable connection between the protests against the regime and this initiative. It is just as important for us to keep these protests peaceful as it is to keep them clean. And we are talking about regime change, but if we want to lay the groundwork for what comes next, we have to take the environment into consideration, because it’s not necessarily a priority for the ruling class. People are talking about the economy, society and education but not about the environment. But if everyone starts talking about it, it will become just as important as the other issues.
It’s important to have an awareness of the environment, as well as of politics and civic issues. They go hand in hand.
Protesters in Algerian flags and holding rubbish bags.
Same idea, different colours
The young activists in Sidi Bel Abbès were inspired by similar initiatives that sprung up earlier in Algiers, including the Green Armbands and the Orange Vests, whose members showed up in their eponymous gear, armed with rubbish bags and brooms, and cleaned up the capital’s streets after the weekly protests.