Dakar street vendors clash with police

Street vendors fed up with hawkers and beggars in the center of Senegal's capital. So vendors protesting an attempt to clear the streets clashed with police - throwing rocks at officers who shot tear gas in the air to clear the crowd.

Bands of young men burned tires in a few spots downtown, while others marched in small groups through a central market. Witnesses said most groups numbered about 60 or 70 people, seen in four or five neighborhoods of the city.

"We can't wait for the government to find other places for us to sell our merchandise. We don't have the time, and we don't know what to do," said Balla Ba, one of the demonstrators.

Riot police shot tear gas grenades into the air to disperse the crowds, and chased down protesters - arresting some and shoving them into the backs of trucks.

Last week, Senegal's security forces began clearing the capital's intersections of beggars and hawkers under a presidential decree aimed at bringing some order to Dakar's clogged streets.

Local aid groups estimate that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 unlicensed vendors and beggars in the capital. Young men sell everything from ironing boards to electronics in Dakar's streets.

Many shops throughout the city were already closed Wednesday in preparation for a planned strike by Dakar's transport unions. Shopkeeper Omar Sarr said he closed his boutique as a precaution ahead of that demonstration.

The young men in the street said they hadn't planned their protest to coincide with the transport strike.

"The reaction came like this, spontaneous," Ba said.

Many see the attempt to clear the streets as part of Dakar's attempt to clean up its image ahead of an Islamic summit it is hosting next year. Numerous high-rise buildings, five-star hotels and luxury bungalows are being built for the summit, along with new highways.

The demonstrations didn't appear large enough to disrupt daily life in most of Dakar - though some streets were blocked and downtown markets were quiet for a normally busy weekday.

And in parts of downtown, phone-credit vendors and perfume salesmen continued to hawk their wares in the street.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova