MANAMA - Thousands of Bahrainis staged a peaceful march on Friday in the first of a series of protests the Shi'ite-led opposition is planning to hold before next week's Formula One Grand Prix race.
Police stayed away from Friday's demonstration as protesters denounced king Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, his uncle.
"You have no legitimacy," they chanted.
The Gulf Arab state, where the US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based, has been hit by unrest since pro-democracy protests broke out in early 2011, putting it in the frontline of the region-wide power struggle between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.
Waving the red-and-white Bahraini flag, the demonstrators marched from one main roundabout to another in the village of al-Aali, some 15 km (nine miles) outside the capital Manama.
"The Formula One is used by the regime to advertise that there is nothing wrong in Bahrain," said Abdelwahid al-Nadhkhadha, a 53-year-old company employee. "We are showing the world that we are people with demands."