MANAMA, Bahrain - (AP) -- Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters flooded a major highway in Bahrain on Friday in one of the largest opposition rallies in months against the Gulf nation's rulers. Security forces fired tear gas at smaller groups attempting to reach a heavily guarded square that was once the hub of the uprising.
The march was called as a show of resolve by a Shiite-led rebellion against Bahrain's Sunni monarchy more than a year after the Arab Spring-inspired protests began. The main procession was mostly peaceful, but breakaway groups were driven back by tear gas as they headed toward Pearl Square, which was the center of the uprising for weeks last year until it was stormed by security forces.
The demonstration is also a reply to Bahrain's Sunni leadership, which has portrayed the uprising as losing steam ahead of next month's lucrative Formula One Grand Prix car race. It was canceled last year because of violence on the tiny island.
The march stretched for miles. Some opposition leaders estimated the crowd at nearly 100,000, which would make it one of the largest protest gatherings since the street rallies erupted in February 2011.
Bahrain's majority Shiites seek to end the Sunni dynasty's control of all main posts and policies in the strategic Gulf nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Shiites make up about 70 percent of Bahrain's 525,000 citizens, but they complain of widespread discrimination and say they are blocked from high-level political and security positions.
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