About 45 women have been arrested in Zimbabwe's two main cities as they were participating Friday in a demonstration to call for peace and an end to political violence. The women are members of an organization called "Women of Zimbabwe Arise", which called for demonstrations in several cities on Valentine's Day, describing their protest as a march for love.
About 200 demonstrators in Harare, many of them wearing white, were handing out red roses and singing an African hymn when police moved in and arrested scores of them, as well as several journalists. They were all forced into the back of police vehicles and driven away. The arrests took place outside the United Nations headquarters in Zimbabwe.
The women participating in the demonstration were from a variety of backgrounds. Some were HIV - AIDS activists. Others were political activists and lawyers. There were also some farmers' wives and mothers among them, as well as nuns. Some of the women were elderly and frail.
Before the march, several of them said they expected to be detained because they did not have police permission for the demonstration.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, about 150 people took part in a demonstration in the city center and about two dozen were arrested and all but a handful have now been released.
These are not the only arrests in recent days. On Thursday evening four people, including a priest, were arrested in a church hall in Harare. They were engaged in a debate on the role of the churches in Zimbabwe's present economic and political crisis.
The four were charged Friday under the Public Order and Security Act, which prohibits public meetings without permission. The four say they had notified the police about the meeting.