Tunisia: Protesters clash with police on activist's death anniversary

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Feb 07, 2021, 01:16 PM IST

Members of the Tunisian police confront protesters demonstrating against the government and police repression in the capital Tunis on February 6, 2021, at a rally commemorating the 8th anniversary of the assassination of prominent leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid. Photograph:(AFP)

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The day saw clashes between protesters and the police

Thousands of Tunisians flocked to streets of Tunis on Friday and Saturday to protest against police brutality. The protests on Friday coincided with death anniversary of a prominent leftist leader  Chokri Belaid who died in 2013. The protests were backed by Tunisia's powerful labour union. The protesters defied lockdown to decry police brutality and abuses. Demonstrators said that police brutality has imperilled freedoms won in 2011 revolution which triggered the 'Arab Spring'.

The day saw clashes between protesters and the police.

Police forces, wearing helmets and wielding batons, scuffled with protesters as tensions simmered at one point during the country's biggest demonstration in years.

Riot police deployed cordons around the city center, stopping both cars and many people from entering the streets around Avenue Habib Bourguiba as thousands of people gathered, a Reuters witness said.

"I lived 10 years in freedom ... I am not ready to lose it," said Haytem Ouslati, a 24-year old demonstrator. Protesters raised placards condemning police violence and chanted "No fear. The street belongs to the people."

Unlike previous marches in a wave of protests that have spread across Tunisia in recent weeks, Saturday's rally was backed by the UGTT union, the country's most powerful political organisation with a million members.

Samir Cheffi, a senior UGTT official, said the protest was needed to protect liberties. "Today is a cry of alarm to defend the revolution, to protect freedoms under threat," he said.

Protests which began last month over inequality have increasingly focused on the large number of arrests and reports - denied by the Interior Ministry - of abuse of detainees.

Mohammed Ammar, a member of parliament for the Attayar party, said he had phoned the prime minister to protest against the closure of central Tunis.

Protesters chanted against the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, a member of successive government coalitions, and reprised the Arab Spring slogan: "The people want the fall of the regime".

(With AFP inputs)