Zimbabwe descends into chaos as police arrest scores in harsh crackdown on protests

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe police armed with AK-47 rifles arrested a prominent activist and pastor on Wednesday, along with scores of others, in a harsh crackdown over protests against dramatic fuel price hikes in the economically shattered country.

As some hungry Harare residents reported being tear-gassed by police when they ventured out for bread, President Emmerson Mnangagwa denounced what he called “wanton violence and cynical destruction.” He noted a right to protest and said he understands the “pain and frustration,” but he appeared to side with authorities who blame the opposition for unrest.

Pastor Evan Mawarire was clutching a Bible when police bundled him into their car in the capital, Harare. He had organized what became nationwide anti-government protests in 2016 against mismanagement and then-President Robert Mugabe’s long stay in power.

“They are alleging that he incited violence through Twitter and other forms of social media in the central business district,” said Beatrice Mtetwa, the pastor’s lawyer.

Eighty-two people appeared in court in Harare on charges of public violence

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