Thousands of anti-government protestors in Bahrain marched near the country’s capital of Manama on Friday as part of a series of demonstrations set to coincide with next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
According to Al-Jazeera, the protest was organized by the opposition bloc Al-Wefaq, whose head, Sheikh Ali Salman, told the news network that while they weren’t seeking to hold up the race with their demands for reform, they were “trying to benefit from the increased media presence.”
Among other chants, the protestors — which marched in a line that was more than a mile long according to the Associated Press — shouted “your race is a crime” in reference to the event according to witnesses. Al-Jazeera is also reporting that another demonstration is planned for April 19, the first official day of the Bahrain GP weekend.
The country has denied making a number of pre-emptive arrests leading up to the Grand Prix, with Human Rights Watch claiming that 20 people were arrested without warrants.
Last year’s race at Bahrain was marred by protests and violence. One of the bigger incidents involved Force India team members having to escape from a incident between protestors and police, which involved fuel bombs getting tossed over their vehicle while they were heading away from the track. No one on the team was injured.
The continued uneasiness in Bahrain has also caused some Formula One sponsors to limit involvement in the race and move most of their advertising in the Middle East toward the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.