A Togolese security forces fire tear gas at protestors during a demonstration in 2010FP
Togopolice fired tear gas on Thursday to break up an opposition protest against legislation that would place tighter restrictions on street demonstrations in the small West African nation.
Authorities unleashed tear gas as several hundred supporters of the main opposition coalition gathered in the capital Lome for the protest, an AFP correspondent reported.
Protesters dispersed, with some burning tyres and erecting barricades in the area. Police had not said whether there were any injuries.
"We had met the minister of territorial administration yesterday," Eric Dupuy, an official with the opposition coalition FRAC told one radio station. "The minister did not tell us that the march was illegal."
He said the youths gathering to protest had been "violently dispersed."
"We can never have trust in this regime," Dupuy added.
The proposed legislation would require organisers of demonstrations to seek prior government approval for gatherings.
Organisers, instigators or accomplices could also face prison sentences of between six months and three years, as well as fines as high as 1,500 euros if demonstrations result in violence or destruction of property.
The government endorsed the legislation two weeks ago, and several opposition parties have since denounced it and demanded it be withdrawn.
"The legislation has not yet been sent to the National Assembly and we have explained that to FRAC several times," government spokesman Pascal Bodjona told AFP. "We have invited them to send their contributions to us to improve it."
FRAC comprises three opposition parties, including Jean-Pierre Fabre's National Alliance for Change (ANC). Fabre finished second in 2010 presidential elections and disputed the results.
Authorities have used tear gas to disperse demonstrations organised by Fabre's supporters a number of times in recent months in the former French colony.
The opposition coalition has staged regular protests in Lome against the re-election in March 2010 of President Faure Gnassingbe. His father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, previously ruled Togo with an iron first from 1967 until his death in 2005.
Fabre had run for president in 2010 under the Union of Forces for Change opposition banner, but some party members decided to join the government after the vote.
Veteran UFC chief, Gilchrist Olympio struck the deal with the ruling party in an agreement he said was aimed at moving the country forward, but critics accused him of allowing himself to be co-opted by those in power.
The move led Fabre's faction of the party to split off in disagreement.
Olympio's move was especially shocking to many considering his background.
His father, Sylvanus Olympio, became Togo's first president after independence, but was assassinated in a coup in 1963. Gnassingbe Eyadema had been accused of involvement in the murder.