They were more than 300 demonstrators to have gathered, at the call of five political formations, in front of the Municipal Theater of the avenue Habib Bourguiba, surrounded by a large police force. “Dictator withdraw your hand from the Constitution”, “the Tunisian people are free and the Constitution will not pass”, shouted the demonstrators, brandishing posters still saying: “we, Tunisian people, have not written this Constitution” or “populist referendum”.
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They then proceeded to the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior and attempted to remove security barriers. Police officers, truncheons and tear gas canisters in hand, blocked their way and made arrests. According to police sources, a dozen were arrested. The president of the national union of Tunisian journalists (SNJT), Mehdi Jelassi, was sprayed with tear gas in the face, and treated on the spot.
Call for a boycott of the referendum
“The demonstrators had been authorized to organize their movement in front of the Municipal Theater but they purposely advanced towards the ministry because they sought provocation”, declared to l’AFP a police official under covered of anonymity.
After the police charge, Hamma Hammami, the leader of the Workers’ Party (radical left), justified the anger of the demonstrators. “The Constitution passes or it does not pass, our struggle will continue until the fall of this new tyrant (…). We are not afraid of prison, death or torture,” he told reporters.
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This protest against the policy of President Saïed comes a few days before the referendum on a new Constitution which grants vast powers to the Head of State. The opposition and NGOs, which had already organized several protest movements against Kaïs Saïed’s policies and called for a boycott of this referendum, say they fear a drift towards a régime « dictatorial ».