Five thousand people marched through central Tunis on Saturday to demand the neoliberal Islamist government step down amid reports that ruling party activists have been vandalising union offices.
Members of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) marched shoulder-to-shoulder with members and supporters of the centre-left Progressive Democratic Party, the left-liberal Ettajdid movement and the Tunisian Communist Party.
After marching down Habib Bourguiba Avenue protesters massed outside the Interior Ministry waving national flags and union banners, chanting: “The people want the government’s fall,” “Hands off my UGTT,” “The Tunisian people are free – no America, no Qatar” and “Employment, freedom, national dignity.”
They branded the government “dictatorial” and “backward.”
Many protesters also blasted the so-called Friends of Syria conference which had been held in Tunis on Friday.
One man said: “This imperialist conference is a sign of the subjugation of the new regime to foreign powers – Qatar and the United States in the first place.”
When riot police tried to break up the rally scuffles ensued. Most protesters cleared after officers tear-gassed the crowd, but some stone-throwers skirmished with police for about half an hour before calling it a day.