Anti-government protests are escalating in Bahrain, as demonstrators have already marched on the U.S. embassy are now assembling before the main financial hub of downtown Manama.
Several other rallies were scheduled across the small kingdom, in which a Shia majority is ruled by minority Sunni elite.
Outside the American embassy in southern Manama, protesters held up placards which entreated Washington to stop supporting dictators
Shia protesters allege that the U.S. government has not given them the support that anti-regime forces in Tunisia and Egypt received – perhaps largely due to the fact that Bahrain is a key strategic ally of the American and home to its US Navy's 5th Fleet.
The message we want to give is that this regime has to end, and the United States has to prove that it is with human rights, and the right for all people to decide (their) destiny, a protester at the embassy reportedly said. We are born free, and we want to live free.
A spokesman for the embassy said the U.S. government is listening to all sides.
In fact, the Obama Administration has praised the efforts of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to minimize the conflict by offering dialogue with his opponents.
Khalifa has also reshuffled his cabinet as another concession to the opposition.
Another group of Bahrainis stood outside the office of the country’s interior ministry.
Some protesters demanded the resignation of the ruling family and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, while others pledged that the anti-government movement represented a unity of the Sunni and Shia peoples. More demonstrators are demanding democratic reforms, including the establishment of an elected legislature.
So far, the presence of police at the demonstrations has been small and unobtrusive. State security forces have not made much noise since clashes last month led to the deaths of at least seven protesters, followed by demands of investigations into the killings.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prince has warned that further protests will only be tolerated if they remain peaceful.
These rallies must not infringe upon the freedoms of other people,” he said on state television.
“This is a basic principle. I urge all parties not to escalate matters or to slide into sensationalism. Some people do want this to happen, so we have to be fully committed and to speak out bravely against it. I hope that everyone will be brave, patient and optimistic and motivated to engage actively in the dialogue.”