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“We are on strike to support our fellow people in the square,” said Samira Ali, 40, a science teacher. “We feel emboldened with our cause after blood was spilled. I want a real constitutional monarchy where my voice is heard and my message reaches to the government.”

Samira Salman, a 48-year-old Arabic teacher, carried a sign reading, “You can take my life, but you can’t take my freedom.” She wore a Bahrain flag as a cape.

“We won’t leave until our demands for the government to resign are met. I want everything to do with the system to fall. Our blood was on the street, and I feel more confident about our cause,” she said after returning from the protests crowds refilling Pearl Square in central Manama.

Hundreds of protesters spent the night back in the square after the withdrawal Saturday of security forces a day after firing on marchers trying to reach the site, which was the symbolic center of the protest movement inspired by Egyptian demonstrators who refused to leave Cairo’s Tahrir Square until Hosni Mubarak resigned as president.

On Thursday, riot police stormed Pearl Square in a siege that killed five people and sharply escalated the confrontation.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, appealed for calm and political dialogue in a brief address on state TV on Saturday.

President Obama discussed the situation with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, asking him to hold those responsible for the violence accountable. He said in a statement that Bahrain must respect the “universal rights” of its people and embrace “meaningful reform.”

In the United Arab Emirates, an important Gulf ally for Bahrain, Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan urged Bahraini’s opposition groups to accept offer for talks as a way to restore “security and stability.”

Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.