ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- At least six people are dead after hundreds of protesters clashed with police Saturday in Addis Ababa in demonstrations over unfair distribution of wealth in Ethiopia.
The protests turned violent when police tried to prevent a few hundred chanting protesters from entering the historic Meskel Square in the downtown area, ENCA.com reported.
Internet access was cut to the entire country, but news of the protests leaked out through social media, De Birhan reported. Despite the shutdown of all telecommunications, videos and images of the protest were appearing on social media pages.
While Ethiopian authorities would not confirm the death count, Al Jazeera reported that four people were killed Saturday north of Addis Ababa in the northern Gondar region and two more were killed Friday. It is a region dominated by the ethic Amharas.
Some 500 ethnic Oromo people protesting both discrimination and what they perceive as economic equality, gathered iin Meskel Square amid a heavy police presence, shouting slogans such as "we want our freedom" and "free our political prisoners."
Police dispersed the crowd using batons and dozens were arrested.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn banned demonstrations on Friday, saying they "threaten national unity." He called on police to use any means necessary to prevent the protests.
Opposition groups from the Oromo, the country's largest ethic group, organized the protests. For months, they have been protesting against what they see as government discrimination. The Oromo were joined recently by the ethnic Amharas who have protested in other areas of Ethiopia.
The two ethnic groups make up the majority of Ethiopia's population. They believe they are being discriminated against with the government favoring the ethnic Tigrayans, giving them key government jobs and giving them favor in security forces positions.