Framework

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Anti-government protesters run from tear gas near Pearl Square, the location of earlier protests.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Protesters run through a fog of tear gas enveloping them after they tried to march from Salmaniya Medical Complex to Pearl Square, but were thwarted by security forces. A second attempt to gain entrance to the roundabout was successful and thousands of people occupied the area once again.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Anti-government protesters were met with tear gas as they attempted to march from Salmaniya Medical Complex to Pearl Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Hussein Abdullah, 19, cries out at the funeral of his best friend Ali Ahmed Al Muameen, 23, who was killed by security forces in Bahrain as they cracked down on anti-government protesters that were occupying the Pearl roundabout.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Protesters rejoice after entering Pearl Square, where government forces backed down and allowed thousands to re-occupy the area just before dark.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Protesters raise their arms triumphantly in Pearl Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Army tanks leave the Pearl roundabout on Saturday and by late afternoon anti-government protesters were able to re-occupy the area.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

A woman is overcome with emotion at in Pearl Square, which saw the return of thousands of anti-government protesters after they were forcibly removed a day earlier by Bahrain's security forces.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Traffic near the Pearl roundabout came to a standstill as hundreds took to the streets cheering the thousands who came to re-occupy the area after being forcibly removed by government forces a day earlier.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

An image of Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, adorns a building that overlooks the Pearl roundabout where protesters have once again returned.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Triumphant protesters wave flags in Pearl Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Thousands of people returned to the Pearl Square roundabout after government forces left their positions where they had been guarding the square after violently forcing out protesters a day earlier.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

An anti-government protester moves concertina wire away from the entrance to the Pearl roundabout.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

An anti-government protester holds a "triple chaser grenade," which is made in the United States and was deployed in Bahrain in an effort to control the crowds.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Protesters walk past a recently constructed message made of rocks that calls for the ouster of Bahrain's king, Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Young Bahraini protesters hold a candlelight vigil after returning to the Pearl roundabout on Saturday evening.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Within hours of re-occupying the Pearl roundabout, protesters had brought in couches and tents as well as a full kitchen and loudspeaker system as they prepared for a sit-in similar to Egypt's Tahrir Square which ended the reign of President Hosni Mubarak.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Families moved into tents brought into the Pearl roundabout shortly after it was abandoned by government troops Saturday evening. Within a few hours, protesters had set up a full kitchen, a lost-and-found and a loudspeaker system.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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Bahrain protesters return to Pearl Square after soldiers, police withdraw

Protesters gathered in Pearl Square and celebrated where hours earlier a bloody crackdown was staged by security forces. Crown Prince Salman ibn Hamed Khalifa told CNN that he had ordered the removal of the military from the square and that protesters would be allowed to gather and voice their concerns without fear. Los Angeles Times photographer Rick Loomis is in Bahrain, covering the conflict, along with Times reporter Ned Parker, who filed this story.  More photos from Friday’s protests can be viewed here.

Here’s Loomis’ account:

Saturday morning started with a check of the morgue at the Salmaniya Medical Complex. Amazingly, there were no bodies despite the critical cases the hospital had received the night before.

Back on the Pearl roundabout, the scene was quiet until the armored personnel carriers that lined the area began to make a move.  Very quickly, the entire army mobilized and a long, single column of armor, Humvees and support vehicles lumbered down the highway away from the roundabout.

Protesters seized the moment and several converged on the area until police units arrived and began to chase them down, firing tear gas and once again clearing the square.  This scene played out from a vantage point I had that overlooked the area.

By mid-afternoon people were streaming into the hospital area to gather for a planned march back onto the Pearl roundabout.  Workers in the hospital, accustomed to the carnage from the last few days, prepared for the worst as the march began.

Several hundred yards from the Pearl roundabout, the police made their stand against the advancing mass, maybe 2,000 strong.  Tear gas shot through the air and clouded the scene, forcing protesters to run away from the haze.  I shot a few frames and then turned to run as well.  I’d planned my escape along the way, looking for walls to jump over or doorways to take shelter in.  But when the moment came, I chose to run, then cut left down an alleyway that was protected by a large wall.

Everything was going according to plan until someone fell ahead of me, causing another person fell, then another. I quickly found myself on the ground, choking in tear gas and being trampled upon by others trying to escape.  I could not extract myself for what seemed like a really long minute.

When I finally broke free and ran to safety, every knuckle on my left hand was scraped and bloody as well as my right knee.

The protesters, undeterred, regrouped and moved again on the police lines.  This time, the police retreated, and the group moved with purpose and excitement as once again they believed the Pearl roundabout was within their grasp.

They shoved rolls of concertina wire to the side of the road and ran into the center of the roundabout.  Some dropped to their knees and prayed.  Some wept.  All were jubilant, sensing a small victory was at hand for them. Certainly the police could have used deadly force once again to hold the square but it seems there were unknown forces at work that called for Bahrain’s security forces to leave the square.

The crowd was ecstatic and word traveled quickly. By nightfall thousands more had joined the occupation of the area.  A functional kitchen churned out food and tea, a loudspeaker system was put into the area and tents were erected to house people overnight.

The night ended with a candlelight vigil, which was the first thing I photographed when I landed in the country three days ago.  A lot has happened here since that first vigil.

5 Comments

  1. February 19, 2011, 12:35 pm

    Beautiful pictures. Hope the people will achieve the freedom they so bravely fight (and die) for

    By: tokolosheza
  2. February 19, 2011, 6:41 pm

    Historical changes happening before our eyes. Photography by Loomis is amazing, as always.

    By: Craig Bell
  3. February 20, 2011, 3:55 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marjolein M and Alex Keizer, David Brauchli. David Brauchli said: The LA Time's Rick Loomis is in Bahrain and has made some nice pix of the demos. He apptly made it through border ok: http://lat.ms/h9bXvR [...]

  4. June 14, 2011, 11:10 am

    Looks like alot of bored people.

    By: tnbobob
  5. June 22, 2011, 9:00 am

    [...] Bahrain protesters return to Pearl Square after soldiers, police withdraw [...]

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