Clashes Erupt as Protesters in Tunisia Demand End to Power Grab
Tunisian police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital marching to mark the country’s Arab Spring uprising and demand President Kais Saied reverse his power grab.
Some sought to force their way onto the iconic Habib Bourguiba boulevard in Tunis that had been cordoned off late Thursday in anticipation of the rallies, chanting “down, down with the coup” and “no fear, people have the power.”
There were no immediate reports of casualties or arrests. The Interior Ministry estimated that 1,200 people joined the protests, and said authorities had shown “restraint” before ending demonstrations that violated Covid-19 restrictions.
Opposition parties, including the main Ennahda Islamist party and the secular Attayar, backed the protests, which marked the 11th anniversary of autocrat President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali leaving the country amid region-wide uprisings.
But the protesters were also attempting to pressure Saied, who has assumed wide-ranging powers since sacking the prime minister and dissolving parliament in July.
Critics dubbed it a coup, though Saied said he acted to save the country from mismanagement and corruption in earlier administrations. Many Tunisians initially welcomed his moves but as economy has continued to sink, hit hard by restrictions to contain the coronavirus, frustration is growing.
Authorities imposed a two-week nighttime curfew and ban on gatherings Thursday. Opponents dismissed the restrictions as a bid to stifle protests.
The powerful UGTT trade union didn’t explicitly back the demonstrations, but hailed the uprising as a crowning moment for Tunisians’ “long struggle against repression and dictatorships.”
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