Police wade in with tear gas and batons as thousands gather for Mugabe protest

Police used tear gas and water cannon on demonstrators in Zimbabwe on Friday, in defiance of a court order stopping them from interfering. The officers used their batons to beat protesters who had gathered in the capital, Harare, in a show of unity against president Robert Mugabe. They also set up roadblocks and stood guard outside opposition party headquarters as they tried to break up a “mega demonstration” which had earlier been given the all-clear by the high court. Protesters fought back by throwing stones at police while some set tyres ablaze and others pulled down the sign for a street named after Mr Mugabe.

We view this as victory for democracy. The demonstration is going ahead (although) we know the police have already teargassed the venue

Opposition spokesman Douglas Mwonzora welcomes the high court decision

Friday’s protest was intended as the biggest and most significant yet, bringing together Zimbabwe’s 18 squabbling opposition parties amid talk of a coalition to fight Mr Mugabe in elections scheduled for 2018. The 92-year-old president, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has refused to name a successor, insisting he wants to rule until he dies. Police had tried to discourage Friday’s march, saying the anticipated crowd of around 150,000 would disrupt business and traffic. But clashes began breaking out even as demonstrators gathered waiting to hear the outcome of the court hearing.