More than 100 demonstrations broke out across Jordan on Tuesday night after Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced an increase in fuel prices. Thousands of protestors demanded the PM's resignation and declared a general strike in what appears to be an "unparalleled show of anger directed at the king after months of mounting tension," writes the New York Times.
The news of the price hike sparked protests in the capital, Amman, and at least 12 other cities across Jordan. Echoing similar rhetoric as in Egypt and Tunisia when the Arab Spring began, the New York Times reports that in the capital city "thousands of demonstrators filled the circle outside the Interior Ministry near midnight chanting, 'The people want the fall of the regime.'"
Despite laws that forbid public criticism of the king, protestors targeted icons of King Abdullah II. “Freedom is from God, in spite of you, Abdullah," they chanted as "protesters tried to take down a street portrait of the king hung on a billboard," before riot police encircled it deterring its removal, Al Jazeera reports. In Dhiban, a city of 15,000 south of the capital, witnesses reported seeing protestors burning pictures of the King.
“The anger and frustration from the people is at its peak all over the kingship,” Murad Adailah, a member of the Islamic Action Front, told the New York Times. “This is unprecedented. The level of the slogans are the highest. This is the highest peak of tension that I’ve seen since the beginning of the Arab Spring.”
According to Al Jazeera, "shortly after the prime minister's TV appearance, 100 protesters clashed with riot police a block away from Ensour's home in the northern city of Salt." Protestors destroyed two cars outside the house and "pelted stones at policemen as they tried to break their lines to get to Ensour's home to demand his resignation," said a police official, who also noted that police responded by firing tear gas at the crowd.
Across the country, demonstrators burned tires, smashed traffic lights and blocked roads while riot police often retaliated with tear gas. Al Jazeera reports hundreds of protestors in the streets, including in cities inhabited primarily by "tribal Bedouins who are traditional supporters of the king":
In Mazar, dozens of protesters burned down the main court building.
Further south in Maan…500 protesters blocked the streets, burning tires and throwing stones at riot police, who were firing tear gas, a city official said.
In Sareeh, on the edge of the northern city of Irbid close to the Syrian border, angry protesters burned down a gas station, said witness Mohammed Amoura.
The widespread protests were in reaction to Ensour's televised announcement during which he eradicated fuel subsidies driving prices up 14 percent at the pump and more than 50 percent in gas used for cooking. The government cuts are in response to a record high deficit of nearly $3 billion, which is largely attributed to the disappearance of financial aid from gulf states including disruptions in cheap Egyptian gas shipments.
Al Jazeera reporter Nisreen El Shamayleh said that many "feel these measures are targeting the poor and not the wealthy in Jordan who can afford the [increase in prices]." El Shamayleh added that there will be a protest on Friday as well as a general strike by the teachers union.
The eruption comes after months of mounting tension among opposition groups, who grew impatient with the King's "half step" initiatives which included some electoral reforms and the dissolution of parliament last month. Protestors cite continued abuses including the jailing of dozens of non violent activists on charges which can carry the death penalty.