QATIF, Saudi Arabia — A "Day of Rage" planned by critics of the Saudi Arabian government proved relatively calm Friday, with peaceful demonstrations in and around the eastern city of Qatif, a day after police fired on protesters there, and elsewhere in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
Witnesses reported a heavy police presence in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, but no protests.
Hundreds marched in Ahsa, an oasis town in the country's largely Shiite Eastern Province, and several protesters were arrested, but there was no violence, said Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, president of the country's Human Rights First Society. Another witness said that marches were held in three small towns outside Qatif and that hundreds of people marched in Qatif itself. All the protests took place without incident.
Protesters have called for democracy in the country, which has been ruled by the Saud family since they united it by conquest almost 80 years ago. The royal family and the majority of the country's population are Sunni Muslims, and Shiite Muslims in Eastern Province have urged an end to what they say are discriminatory government measures that prevent them from holding many public positions and that restrict their public services.
The Saudi government had indicated this week that it would do whatever it took to stop demonstrations from taking place on Friday. Protests are highly unusual in the authoritarian country.
Bahrain: Police fired tear gas on protesters as they attempted to march to a royal complex on the outskirts of Manama, the capital. Also Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates flew to Bahrain to meet with officials there, in a sign of the United States' continued concern about the events in the region.
Yemen: Security forces opened fire on protesters near Aden, injuring at least six, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, tens of thousands gathered in the capital, Sana, to demand the immediate ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.