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story.lead_photo.caption People wave flowers as they gather to protest against the results of the country's presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

MINSK, Belarus -- Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets, and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants Thursday to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Beginning in the morning, hundreds of women formed long "lines of solidarity" in several areas of the capital, Minsk. Many were dressed in white and carried flowers and portraits of loved ones who have been detained during protests that began shortly after Sunday's vote, which they said was rigged.

The human chains grew throughout the day, filling the main central squares and avenues as motorists honked in support. In Minsk and many other cities, thousands of factory workers also rallied against the police violence, raising the prospect of strikes in a new challenge to the government.

Amid growing public dismay, dozens of military and police veterans posted videos in which they dumped their uniforms and insignia in the trash. Several popular anchors at Belarus' state TV stations have quit.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjGHuuZizWM]

Nearly 7,000 people have been detained and hundreds injured in the clampdown on demonstrators protesting the official results that said Lukashenko won 80% of the vote and his top opposition challenger got only 10%. Police have broken up protests with stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and beatings.

One protester died Monday in Minsk after, the Interior Ministry says, an explosive device he tried to throw at police blew up in his hand. Some media reports have challenged that official version. Neither the ministry nor the media outlets have provided evidence.

Hundreds of medical workers joined the demonstrations Thursday in Minsk and many other cities.

"There is a feeling that a war is going on, but it's a war against us," said Mikhail Portnov, a 33-year old general practitioner. "We, doctors, see the price of this war as no one else. We were ready for violence, but the brutality of it has crossed all limits."

Gallery: Women in Belarus protest post-election crackdown

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/814belarus/]

Belarus' Investigative Committee launched a criminal probe into the organization of mass rioting -- an indication that authorities may start leveling charges against some detainees. The charges could carry prison terms of up to 15 years for those found guilty.

The ministry said 103 police officers have been injured since Sunday, and 28 of them were hospitalized. In Minsk and the western city of Baranovichi, people ran over traffic police with their vehicles Wednesday before being detained.

The suppression of protests drew harsh criticism in the West.

The European Union foreign ministers are set to meet today to discuss a response, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the 27-nation bloc would "increase the pressure" on Belarus. "The brutal actions and the arrest of peaceful protesters and even journalists in Belarus isn't acceptable in Europe in the 21st century," he told reporters in Berlin.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the election wasn't free or fair and urged the government to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters.

"I'm confident that EU and the United States fully share the same concerns about what has taken place and what is taking place in Belarus, and I'm very hopeful that we can collectively work in a way that gets a better outcome for the people of Belarus," Pompeo said Thursday on a visit to Slovenia.

Information for this article was contributed by Daria Litvinova, Vladimir Isachenkov, Matthew Lee and Frank Jordans of The Associated Press.

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People with flowers and old Belarusian national flags gather to protest against the results of the country's presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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People greet each other waving flowers and white balloons as they gather to protest against the results of the country's presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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People with flowers and old Belarusian national flags gather to protest against the results of the country's presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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People with old Belarusian national flags gather to protest against the results of the country's presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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Police beat a protester during a mass rally following presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, late Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Belarus officials say police detained over 1,000 people during the latest protests against the results of the country's presidential election. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman says rallies took place in 25 Belarusian cities on Tuesday, the third night of protests contesting the election results. (AP Photo)
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People hold a handmade banner of an old Belarusian national flag as they gather to protest against the results of the country's presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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People greet each other waving flowers and white balloons as they gather in a street to protest against the results of the country's presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko listens during a meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Crowds of protesters in Belarus swarmed the streets and thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants Thursday to denounce a police crackdown on demonstrations over a disputed election that extended the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA, Pool Photo via AP)
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Police use flash-bang grenades to disperse protesters during a mass rally following presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Belarus officials say police detained over 1,000 people during the latest protests against the results of the country's presidential election. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman says rallies took place in 25 Belarusian cities on Tuesday, the third night of protests contesting the election results. (AP Photo)

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