Tunis – Few almost forgotten police practices occurred again, Monday, in new Tunisia. A déjà vu heavy crack down with batons and tear gas bombs was employed against a peaceful manifestation to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the April 9th 1938 events also known as the National Martyrs’ Day.
Thousands of citizens responded to the call launched by several civil society organizations for a peaceful walk on Tunis’s central artery, Habib Bourghiba Avenue, a vital site on which protests led to the fall of former President Zine Abidine Ben Ali’s regime, last year on January 14th.
‘Nothing has really changed; it feels like again on January 14th. They insult and beat us up with such rage’ said one protestor to Business news.
The walk started by chanting the national hymn and raising slogans such as “no fear, no terror, power is for the people!” and “always faithful to the blood of the martyrs”. Protesters filled the street wrapped in the Tunisian flag, defying a recent temporary ban imposed by the Ministry of Interior on March 28th.
The presence of counter-protesters coming from secondary streets was noted. They started throwing stones at the peaceful protesters. An action that pushed the police, who was heavily surrounding the area, to start shooting tear gas bombs and violently treating whoever their sticks reach to disband the gatherings.
‘It should be noted that such militias (counter-protesters) keep appearing whenever the protesters doesn’t involve Salafists! It appears to everyone today that the Ministry of Interior does not deal on equal footing with the fundamentalist, extremists and the other citizens who wish to speak out in public. Just remember Sunday, March 25th and the manner in which those who climbed the clock in order to raise their sinister black flag were treated and also those who have physically assaulted the artists in front of the Municipal Theatre during their celebration of World Theatre Day. The police never interfered’ said Mohamed Ridha Bouguerra.
‘Lots of solidarity among the peaceful demonstrators, the stone throwers were few and isolated minors #9Avril’ tweeted Selim.
Moncef Marzouki, Provisional President of
the Republic and former human rights militant, gave a
statement on national television in which he expressed regret of ‘the
acts of violence by some demonstrators against the police
officers. ‘An inacceptable level of violence’ he says.
The Provisional President of the Republic lists 10 injured police officers, attacked by demonstrators, and refers to a vehicle containing Molotov cocktails that have been intercepted before reaching the place of demonstration. A will to sow confusion and to sink the country into chaos, he said.
He also expressed regret of the violent attacks against the peaceful demonstrators and called for respecting the law and the ban that was imposed on demonstrating the Tunis’s main avenue.
Jawhar M’Barek, Constitutional Law professor and founder of Doustourna (our constitution) got his arm broken, while joining a licensed protest, Monday, on Mohamed V Avenue. Khemaies Ksila and Brahim Kassas, members of the Constituent Assembly were equally aggressed.
Ahmed Brahim from Ettajdid party (left wing), Hamma Hammami and
his wife Radhia Nasraoui (Labor party), Emna Menif (All Tunisia movement),
Fadhel Moussa (Progressive Democratic Pole) and Salma Baccar (filmmaker), are
all popular figures that were aggressed too.
Towards the end of the day, spontaneous solidarity marches with the victims of police violence in Tunis took off in each of Sfax, Monastir, Sousse and Sidi Bouzid cities. Offices of the Moderate Islamist Party, Ennahda, currently leading the government have been reported to be burnt in Monastir city.
Student unions called for a general strike in Sousse on Tuesday, in protest against the repressive government policies.
Appeals to lift the ban on Habib Bourghiba Avenue keep on rising while social networks call for a second demonstration on May 1st, Labor Day.