I’ve just returned to the safety of my apartment in the the Bardo after a violent day of clashes in central Tunis, as police tried to maintain a ban on protests along the city’s main thoroughfare, Avenue Bourguiba.
Hundreds of protesters taunted police and were met with multiple rounds of tear gas and beatings.
I saw police -some of whom had ski masks – head butting protesters and leading away mobile-phone wielding amateur journalists to an uncertain fate. Reports said some protesters were throwing rocks at police – something I didn’t witness.
This kid was led away after copping a headbutt and a baton in the ribs.
Tunisians are testing the limits of their new democracy. The government has imposed a ban on protests along the city’s main street, citing the need to protect commercial interests. But secular demonstrators complain that it is only they who receive the brunt of the policeman’s baton. A recent Salafist demonstration – before I arrived – was not dealt with half as violently, I’m told.
Today was martyrs’ day – in memory of those who fought French colonial rule – but it was families of the new martyrs – those of the 2011 revolution, who told me that the ruling Ennahda Islamist party has not fulfilled its promises, economic or otherwise. A group from Sidi Bouzid, where the Tunisian uprising began, marched to Tunis on foot and was represented in the crowds today.
Certainly there was a hint of old habits dying hard when it came to police behaviour, as groups of people were chased down backstreets by police in vans and on motorbikes. I forgot a scarf for the gas, and paid for it with tears.
Video still of people being chased down the streets leading off Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
Tunisia Live – an enthusiastic group of young journalists whose office I had the pleasure of visiting today in order to take a breather – has just reported that no hospitals in the city have reported any deaths form the violence, although tens of injured have been taken in.
When all is said and done, it is an extremely exhilarating time to be in Tunis – especially as a video journalist – as a country finds its feet, tests its democracy – and everyone has something to say.