Manama, Bahrain — Protesters celebrated Saturday in Bahrain when police and soldiers withdrew from Manama's symbolic Pearl Square, allowing young Shiite Muslims eager for a larger role in Bahraini society to take back their central stage.
"The police backed down when they saw thousands of people coming from four directions," said one demonstrator.
Confrontations gave way to a massive party as protesters chanted, hugged and waved yellow and red plastic flowers. Hundreds of Bahraini flags fluttered in the wind.
Soldiers had fired tear gas and bullets at demonstrators a day earlier and brutally cleared Pearl Square before dawn on Thursday, rousting sleeping protesters camped in the traffic roundabout.
Crown Prince Salman ibn Hamed Khalifa, told by by Bahrain's king to open a dialogue with all opposition forces, said in an interview with CNN that he had ordered the removal of the military from the square. He said the protesters would be allowed to gather and voice their concerns without fear.