Algiers (Agencies): Thousands of Algerian protesters defied government warnings and dodged barricades to rally in their capital, demanding democratic reforms a day after mass protests threw out Egypt's autocratic ruler.

Protesters chanting slogan "No to the police state" and brandishing signs that read "Give us back our Algeria" clashed with baton-wielding police in helmets and visors. Organisers said above 400 people were briefly held, but aside from some jostling between police and protesters no violence was reported.

"This demonstration is a success because it's been 10 years that people haven't been able to march in Algiers and there's a sort of psychological barrier," stated Ali Rachedi, the former head of the Front of Socialist Forces party. "The fear is gone."

Organisers said as many as 26,000 riot police were posted to try to quash Saturday's rally, but that about 10,000 people succeeded in jostling, squeezing and jumping over the barricades and gathering in the city center before the protest was broken up. Officials put turnout at the rally at 1,500.

Algeria has long been ruled by a repressive regime and inundated by widespread poverty and high unemployment—factors that helped foment popular unrests that ousted leaders of two other North African nations in the past month.

Tensions have been high in Algeria since early January, when five days of riots over food inflation left three people dead.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika hails from a single-party system that has loosened but remained in authority since Algeria's independence from colonial master France in 1962. He is credited with helping the nation recuperate from a brutal Islamist rebellion that ripped the country asunder during the 1990s, killing an estimated 200,000 people.

Ali Yahia Abdenour, head of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, said foreign journalists were among those arrested on Saturday. Abdenour, who is 83 years old, said he was himself jostled by security forces that surrounded him and tried to persuade him to go home.

The rally was held by an umbrella group for human rights activists, unionists, lawyers and others. Organisers called it to press for democratic developments without specifically calling for Bouteflika to resign, though some protesters chanted, "Bouteflika out."