Managua (AFP) - Some 20 protesters were arrested Sunday when Nicaraguan police swooped in to break up a meeting of demonstrators gathering for a march against the government of President Daniel Ortega.
Police wielded clubs and hurled stun grenades to break up the demonstrators gathering at a shopping mall parking lot, beating men, women and even some elderly people.
Those arrested were dragged down the street to be later loaded onto police patrol vehicles.
Some reporters were also beaten and briefly detained, local independent reporters said.
"They respect no one, not even older people or children," said Azhalea Solis, head of the Civic Alliance, an umbrella group that represents business people, students and social groups.
And there was outrage from the Organization of American States and the president of neighboring Costa Rica.
"We demand the government of #Nicaragua release the protesters who have been detained, that it respect the right to peaceful protest nationwide, and stop repression and all intimidation of political leaders and civilians," OAS chief Luis Almagro wrote on Twitter.
"Deeply concerned by this morning's arrests in Nicaragua. The repression the Nicaraguan people are being put through must stop," Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado tweeted.
Police had earlier announced that they would not allow any unauthorized demonstrations.
Hundreds of anti-riot police officers were deployed early in the day to key points of the capital Managua as well as to the highway to the restive city of Masaya.
Government supporters took over city roundabouts where protesters had planned to gather.
Anti-government demonstrations began on April 18, initially protesting changes in the social security system.
Since then the demonstrations have grown in size and the protestors are calling for the resignation of Ortega and his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo.