Hundreds of people marched in central Tunis on Saturday against inequality and police brutality, in defiance of a ban on demonstrations and as security forces tried to block off the city’s main central avenue.
Protesters chanted “the people want the fall of the regime” – a chant popularised during the so-call Arab Spring a decade ago – and held up banners and slogans decrying the security response to more than a week of demonstrations and nightly clashes between youths and police in cities across Tunisia.
The protests, 10 years after a popular revolt against autocratic rule introduced democracy in Tunisia, represent the biggest bout of political unrest in several years, with police detaining hundreds of people.
“We can’t accept a police state in Tunisia 10 years after the revolution… it is shameful,” said Mahmoud, a young cafe worker who did not give his family name.
The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated an already dire economy in Tunisia, where many young people seek only to emigrate to Europe and see few opportunities at home.
At Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the stately tree-lined thoroughfare running from the sea up to the old city of Tunis, police placed barricades to stop protesters gathering.
The government banned protests last week in what it said was an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Though protesters later managed to reach Habib Bourguiba, a symbolic focal point of the 2011 uprising, the attempt to close off the avenue underscored government unease at the momentum of the protests.
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